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Commander H.CR1CHARDSON 
Ueut. Cora. ALBERT G. READ 

















I. Ordered to Perform an Impossible but 

Necessary Task 3 

II. Curtiss Is Called to Assist His Career and 
Personality Suggestions of the Curtiss 
Trio Decision to Try First the Three- 
Motor Machine 19 

III. Dr. Lanchester's Dicta " Useful-load" per- 

centages Handley-Page and Liberty Mo- 
tors Navy Department Organization 

Curtiss Corporation Takes Over the Task 40 


IV. Characteristics of the Curtiss Corporation 

Personnel Experience of the Navy Ex- 
perts First Plans too Ambitious ... 50 

V. Importance of Low Weight per Horsepower 
And of Streamlines Wing Section 
Design Strut Experiments Hull and 
Tail Designs Use of Aluminum 
Power Plant Installation A Safety Fac- 
tor of Four 68 




VI. Slow Progress Doubts about the Hull 
Many Designers Lend a Hand Mr. 
Handley-Page and His Bombing Machines 90 

VII. The Actual Building Placing out Parts of 
the Work Mr. Gilmore's Share in the 
N. C's His Naval Assistants Moving 
the Big Panels out to Garden City The 
Assembling Engine Installation Problems 103 

VIII. Commander Richardson's Alarming "Hump" 
A T . C. 1 Ready for Flight Arrangements 
at Rockaway Handling Methods and 
Difficulties The First Try-out Tests 
and Adjustments The Flight to Wash- 
ington Fifty-one Passengers The First 
Air Stowaway 116 

IX. Numberless Alterations Stop Progress 
The Report to the Planning Committee 
Other Official Correspondence Speeding 
up Preparations Changes N. C. 2 Gives 
Her Wings to N. C. 1 Accidents The 
Delivery of the Boats . 136 




I. The Preliminaries 171 

II. The Flight Begins N.C 4 Goes Lame 
Repairs at Chatham The "Hops" to 
Halifax and Trepassey Bay .... 186 


III. The Big "Hop "Newfoundland to the 

Azores 198 

IV. To Ponta Delgada To Lisbon And to 

Plymouth 213 

V. Conclusion of the Trip Glad Hands 

Sober Thoughts 226 



I. Previous Attempts at Transatlantic Flight 235 

II. The Azores Route Chosen Commissioning 

the Planes Equipping Them . . . 243 

III. The Start of the Flight Rockaway to 

Halifax 252 

IV. The Second " Leg " Halifax to Trepassey 

Bay 263 

V. The Third " Leg " Trepassey Toward the 

Azores 276 

VI. A Small Craft on a Large Ocean ... 287 
VII. Arrival and Reception at Ponta Delgada . 303 


The N. C. 4 Taxies Along the Lisbon Waterfront 



Glenn Curtiss, Father of Aquatic Aviation ... 30 

Commander G. C. Westervelt, Supervisor of De- 
signing of the N. C. Craft 30 

Commander A. C. Itead, of the N. C. 4 . . . . 30 

Commander H. C. Richardson, of the N. C. 3 . . 30 

Longitudinal Section of the N. C. Boat Hull . . 46 

Nomenclature of the N. C. Planes 70 

A Wing Engine Mounting 86 

The Inside of an N. C. Boat 86 

The Bow of an N.,C. Plane 87 

Instrument Board, Central Nacelle, N. C. 3 . . 102 

Wireless Control Station in the After Cockpit, N. C. 1 102 

Liberty Engine in Place on a Wing Nacelle, N. C. 1 103 

The Bow of the N. C. 1 103 

A Birdseye View of the Arrangements at Rockaway 118 

N. C. 1 in Front of the Hangar 118 

Fifty-one Passengers 119 

Commissioning N. C. Division One 119 

Those Who Go Up in the Air in Ships .... 134 




Ready to Start for the Azores 135 

The Start of the Transatlantic Flight .... 135 

The Landfall of the Rocky Coast of the Azores . 150 

N. C. 4 Arrives at Horta, Azores 151 

The Crew of the N. C. 4 166 

The Crew of the N. C. 1 166 

The Welcome to the N. C. men at Plymouth, 

England 167 

The N. C. 4 Men Are Congratulated by the Prince 

of Wales 222 

The Development of Nautical Aviation 1 . 222 

The Development of Nautical Aviation 2 . 223 

Christening the America, Aspirant for ^Transatlan- 
tic Honours 223 

The Immediate Ancestor of the Flying Boat . . 262 

The America about to Take the Air 262 

The N.C.3 at Rockaway 263 

When the N.C.3 Landed on Rough Water . . 278 

The Crippled N.C.3 Blowing into Ponta Delgada 279 

N.C.S at Ponta Delgada 279 





The Triumph of the N.C'S 




EARLY in September, 1917, Rear-Admiral 
D. W. Taylor called Naval Constructor 
Hunsaker and me into his office, and took 
our breaths away by giving us terse instructions to 
begin the design of a seaplane that could cross the 
Atlantic under its own power. The longest non- 
stop flight that had then been made was only about 
1,200 miles, and that had been accomplished under 
ideal conditions, in the immediate neighbourhood 
of a flying field where any ordinary mishap would 
have resulted merely in an enforced landing. The 
shortest route across the Atlantic required one hop 
under very difficult conditions of at least 1,330 miles. 
And here was the Chief Constructor of the United 
States Navy calmly commanding us to bridge that 
gap, and, if possible, the full 1,933 miles from New- 
foundland to Ireland to do what the combined 
genius and resources of France, Italy, and Great 
Britain had not achieved in three years under the 
desperate stimulation of war. 



I had just returned from a trip to England, France, 
and Italy, where it had been stated by thoroughly 
practical and experienced men that airplanes of such 
a size and of such a radius were as yet beyond our 
reach. Much investigation had pointed in the same 
direction, and Naval Constructor Hunsaker, who 
was the head of the Aeronautical Division of the 
Bureau of Construction and Repair, and had had a 
great deal of experience in such matters, felt the 
same way about it. We presented the objections 
that were in the way, and Admiral Taylor, after 
listening patiently to them, waved his hand as if to 
close the conference, and turning in his chair ended 
the discussion by ordering us to, "get busy and 
produce results." 

The two of us left the Admiral's office together, 
and as the door closed behind us we paused, as if by 
mutual inspiration, and looked at each other. 

"What do we do now?" asked Hunsaker, after a 

"I wish I knew," I replied. 

From the time of our entry into the war until the 
middle of June the War and Navy Departments had 
been endeavouring to secure information regarding 
the air services of our military associates sufficient 
to make possible the adoption and carrying out of 
an effective programme, but conclusive information 
had not been forthcoming. Though much infor- 
mation had been obtained from many sources, though 
numbers of British, French, and Italian officers had 
come to the United States with sample planes and 
with advice, and though definite recommendations 


had been received from the War Departments and 
Admiralties of Great Britain and France, the recom- 
mendations were so various and contradictory that 
it had not been possible to base our actions upon 

Because of this, on the 16th of June, 1917, a some- 
what hastily formed joint Army and Navy Com- 
mission, composed of Major R. C. Boiling, Captain 
V. C. Clark, Captain E. S. Gorrell, Captain Howard 
Marmon, and Captain Hughes, for the Army, and 
Lieutenant W. G. Child and myself for the Navy, 
sailed for England, in order to secure first-hand in- 
formation on which to base a programme. 

The investigation carried out took us through 
various airplane factories in England, France, and 
Italy, and on August 20th, I sailed from Liverpool 
in order to lay before Admiral Taylor the infor- 
mation that had been gathered concerning airplanes 
to be used by the Navy. 

On the date of our arrival in London there was 
around the American Embassy, where all our naval 
activity in Europe was centred, a most remarkable 
and profound atmosphere of apprehension. The 
seriousness of the submarine menace had become ap- 
parent. Small progress, only, had been made in 
defence measures; and there were not lacking officers 
in our naval service who were most frank in their 
statements that disaster was being postponed from 
day to day only by the most remarkable good for- 
tune, and that the margin preventing it was of the 
narrowest. It was impossible to enter this at- 
mosphere without feeling the chill which comes from 


the possibility of a disaster seemingly almost im- 
possible to guard against. 

I immediately devoted my attention to the sub- 
ject of aircraft defences against submarines. The 
officers of the British Admiralty connected with the 
Naval Air Service, or with the British Air Board, 
dealt with me in a spirit of the most absolute frank- 
ness and openness, and placed at my disposal all 
information bearing on the subject. It was easily 
seen that, of the Allies, only Great Britain had 
developed a naval air service to the point where it 
could be regarded as having any effect on submarine 
activities. It was practicable, therefore, to report 
to Admiral Sims within a few days, for cabling to the 
United States Navy Department, the preliminary 
conclusions of the naval representatives regarding 
the steps the United States Navy Department should 
take in connection with air matters, and the direc- 
tion in which it was believed results could be earliest 
obtained. It was our recommendation, and in this 
recommendation Admiral Sims concurred, that we 
should proceed immediately to the development of 
both lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air craft. 
Of the former, our state of manufacturing prepared- 
ness made it seem possible that kite balloons, for 
towing by surface craft, must be our principal contri- 
bution. Of the latter, those seaplanes known com- 
monly as of the "flying boat" type must be the 
result of our activities. 

It was fortunate that a decision could be made in 
favour of flying boats, as in this one type of flying 
craft alone was progress in the United States up to 


the best made elsewhere. For this progress, Mr. 
Glenn Curtiss, the celebrated developer and manu- 
facturer of seaplanes, must be thanked. His interest 
has always been mainly hi water flying craft, and, in 
addition to being the originator of the type, the in- 
spiration for most of the development has come 
from him and from his work. 

It will be shown by photographs how flying boats 
are differentiated from hydroaeroplanes. Briefly, 
a flying boat is a boat hull with wings and tail sur- 
faces attached to it which is capable of flight; a 
hydroaeroplane is an airplane of conventional type 
in which the ordinary landing carriage of wheels 
and struts has been replaced by one of pontoons, 
or floats, and struts. A brief summary, giving the 
advantages and disadvantages of each type, will 
further develop the subject. In this connection, 
however, it must be said that this summary is largely 
my own summary, and that concerning this subject 
considerable controversy rages. There is the flying 
boat school, and the hydroaeroplane school, and the 
more determined of the followers of each of these 
schools will yield little to each other. In my opin- 
ion, flying boats are more seaworthy than hydro- 
aeroplanes; they are able to land upon, and get away 
from, seas of greater height; more comfortable quar- 
ters for the pilots and crew can be provided; and 
greater gasoline capacity, more uniformly distrib- 
uted, can be arranged for. Hydroaeroplanes pos- 
sess the advantages of being somewhat faster for 
equal power, and of being somewhat more ma- 
noeuvrable in the air. As airplanes for fighting pur- 


poses they would also be superior since they would 
permit of better arrangement of guns for defensive 
or for offensive purposes. This latter, however, is 
probably true only of small craft, as on large ones it is 
possible to arrange guns so as to secure fire into all 
portions of the air. 

Fundamentally, all water flying craft are seaplanes, 
but it is necessary to adopt some method for defi- 
nitely defining the kind of seaplane meant. That 
adopted by myself, and the one I shall follow through- 
out this account, is this: When seaplanes are 
spoken of in the plural, water aircraft in general will 
be meant; a seaplane spoken of in the singular will 
mean a hydroaeroplane or airplane of the float type; 
a boat or flying boat, spoken of in the singular, or 
boats and flying boats, spoken of in the plural, will 
mean a seaplane or seaplanes of the boat hull type. 

In recommending types of flying craft for use 
against submarines many things had to be taken into 

First of all to consider was the engine. At the 
time of which I am speaking there was not built in 
the United States an engine of sufficient power or 
reliability to make possible its consideration in con- 
nection with an aircraft programme. There was 
under development, however, the Liberty engine. 
Since then this has proven to be an engine of wonder- 
ful success, but it was necessary, then, in a large 
degree, to take it for granted that this engine would 
turn out successfully, and that our flying boats 
could be motored with engines of this type. In 
order to avoid an entire reliance on this work of 


development, though, we recommended the im- 
mediate undertaking of the manufacture of Rolls- 
Royce engines of 300 to 400 horsepower. 

During the time I was abroad, the first Liberty 
engine had been built and run. The results of this 
first test were unexpectedly favourable. By the time 
I returned to the United States this engine, origi- 
nally designed for 330 horsepower, was showing con- 
tinually increased power, and its reliability had been 
proven to be such that practically all thought had 
been dismissed of manufacturing Rolls-Royce motors. 
The United States, in its air problem, had decided 
to plunge entirely on the Liberty, and to sink or 
swim with its success. At that time I considered 
this decision one involving great hazard, and I still 
consider it so. It is true the outcome was successful, 
and that the Liberty developed gradually into the 
premier airplane engine of its type in the world. 
Had the outcome failed to be successful, however, 
the United States would have been practically inert 
so far as its air forces were concerned, and would have 
been able to contribute little or nothing, in this direc- 
tion, toward winning the war. 

The great outstanding accomplishment of the 
aeronautical endeavour of the United States, during 
the World War, was the Liberty engine. Starting 
almost from a standing start, this engine was de- 
veloped in something less than a year into the leading 
aviation engine of its type of the entire world. Its 
simplicity of construction and its suitability for 
American manufacturing methods are such that in 
about a year the output of these engines became 


equal to the entire output of the rest of the world of 
engines of nearly the same horsepower. During the 
final thirty days before the signing of the Armistice, 
there were produced of this engine more than had 
been produced by all other nations of all other en- 
gines of similar type and comparatively equal horse- 
power in any twelve months. 

Mark Twain once said, in essence: If an intellec- 
tual giant can be found holding an opinion, another 
intellectual giant can be found who holds directly to 
the contrary; if an intellectual pygmy can be found 
holding an opinion, another intellectual pygmy can 
be found who holds the contrary opinion; and thus 
through the entire range of intellectual strata. 
From this he concluded that nobody's opinion is 
worth anything. When we were confronted with 
the necessity of arriving at conclusions regarding 
the proper sizes of aircraft for counter-submarine 
measures, this opinion of Mark Twain's was fre- 
quently in our minds. On one hand, we were advised 
that numerous small seaplanes should be provided 
for carrying one or two small bombs on the other 
hand, that seaplanes of large sizes were necessary for 
carrying bombs of the greatest power. It sometimes 
seemed that as many of our advisors held to one 
opinion as to the other. It was, therefore, as much 
by instinct as by reason that we came to believe 
that those who advised in favour of craft of consider- 
able size were more nearly fundamentally correct than 
those who advised in favour of smaller 'craft. 

Advice against aircraft of the largest sizes was, 
however, nearly unanimous. Only here and there 


a voice was raised in defence of such craft. As we 
examined the attempts which had been made to pro- 
duce larger flying boats than two-motored ones, we 
were forced to admit that the success attained had 
hardly justified the effort. The effort, however, 
had not been entirely consistent, and it lacked the 
support of enthusiasm, except on the part of its im- 
mediate backers. 

Commander Cyril Porte of the Royal Navy, who 
will be mentioned again, stood almost alone as a 
champion of great flying boats. His own efforts, 
or the efforts due to his inspiration, such as those 
resulting in the production of some of the Curtiss 
boats of large size, were the only ones consistently 
devoted to developments in this direction. Those 
efforts, it must be confessed, had not been productive 
of great success. From this fact, it is quite certain, 
had resulted, in considerable measure, the lack of 
confidence felt in these larger flying craft. This 
lack of success was due to the fact that though de- 
signs grew larger practically the same type of con- 
struction was maintained. This resulted in an in- 
crease in weight out of proportion to the increase in 
engine powers. Engine powers had not increased 
sufficiently, and engine weights per horsepower had 
not decreased rapidly enough, to meet this weight in- 
crease, and the result was flying boats over-weighted, 
under-powered, and of small cruising radii. 

With large sizes in aircraft there go inevitably all 
of the disadvantages of this size. Manufacturing 
facilities must be great, and buildings enormous; 
sheds must be much larger and handling arrangements 


more extensive and more complicated; the members 
of handling crews must be more numerous; and ex- 
penses of maintenance are largely increased. Unless 
advantages of very great value can be secured from 
this larger size, such size cannot be justified. From 
the several larger boats built by Commander Porte, 
or on his initiative, these advantages had not, it 
seemed, been obtained. I did not have the oppor- 
tunity of meeting Commander Porte, or of discuss- 
ing with him the reasons for or against large size in 
naval flying craft; or the reasons for a lack of the 
expected success in the craft built by or for him. I 
secured, instead, all of the arguments made me, either 
for or against, from sources less inspired, or from 
those less experienced in the many details involved. 

Back in the United States, the aeronautical industry 
was a starveling. It had suffered severely from mal- 
nutrition, and, with the exception of the Curtiss 
Aeroplane and Motor Corporation of Buffalo, N. Y., 
no company had facilities for manufacture worth a 
moment's consideration. Among the personnel of 
this industry were few men of real manufacturing 
experience, and outside of Buffalo the total person- 
nel engaged was only a few hundred. These were 
the foundations we were forced to regard as those on 
which, overnight, enormous organizations must be 
built. Thought must be given a building programme 
which took into consideration these conditions. 

If we decided upon the building of flying boats of 
the largest sizes then in being, factory buildings of 
the greatest dimensions must be put up; two or three 
manufacturers, only, would be able to undertake the 


necessary work; and small output at the best, and 
only after nine months to a year, could be expected. 
If the decision were for boats of smaller size, the 
material difficulties would be greatly reduced; more 
manufacturers could put up plants and undertake 
the work; deliveries would commence within a few 
months; and boats could be obtained by hundreds 
as compared to tens of the larger ones. 

Under the insistence of the American Navy the 
convoy system for cargo ships and for troopships 
was being put into operation. It was still during 
its early days. Previously, ships had taken their 
way alone through waters rendered as safe as pos- 
sible by the ceaseless patrol of such vessels as were 
available for the purpose. The ocean is enormous; 
patrol vessels were few for the tasks set them; and 
the patrol system was gradually being given up for 
the convoy system. 

In the convoy system ships leave their ports in 
groups under the escort of one or more vessels of war, 
or else rendezvous at an appointed place distant 
from the usual cruising grounds of submarines. 
Later, before entering these cruising grounds, they 
are met by a group of destroyers, or other vessels, 
and are escorted through submarine waters to their 
appointed destinations. Submarines are free to 
roam at large as they desire, except for the dangers 
they encounter in passing through the mine fields 
strategically placed, and from hostile submarines 
patrolling near their ports of entry and exit. If 
they will leave the convoys alone, they are them- 
selves left alone, as patrol vessels exist in quantities 


insufficient for both convoy and patrol work. At- 
tacks on convoys, however, were welcomed. These 
attacks exposed the submarine to the attack of a 
group of destroyers under conditions much to the 
disadvantage of the submarine, and, after a few 
attempts, became a venture only the boldest, or the 
most reckless, would attempt. 

We were considering aircraft activities against 
submarines on the patrol basis. The intention was to 
establish upon the coasts of France and of the British 
Islands a number of air stations so close together that 
their patrol activities would interlock, and there 
would be created in this way sea areas off these coasts 
of as great an extent as possible, free from submarines, 
and safe at any point for slow-moving ships. It is 
instantly obvious that these intentions required for 
their fulfillment very large numbers of flying craft. 
This need for numbers, and for numbers with the 
least possible delay, determined our recommenda- 
tion. We recommended, with the strong approval 
of Vice- Admiral Sims, flying boats by the hundreds, 
motored with single Liberty engines, and as many 
of the large two-motored boats as could be built 
without interfering with the building of the smaller 

It is sufficient to state that the actual airplane 
building programme of the Navy was along the direc- 
tion discussed. The development of this building 
programme was one of the romances of the war, 
which, to my regret, has no further place here. 
One of the buildings erected for constructing some of 
the flying boats ordered was started in the latter part 


of July, was completed in October, and was turning out 
boats in January. It was 900 feet wide by 1,300 feet 
long, and, with equipment, cost more than $6,000,000. 

As I look back on it, I must admit that, upon my 
departure from London for the continent, I was of 
the opinion that reasons against very large flying 
boats, so far as this term was understood in July, 
1917, were of considerably more weight than the 
reasons for them. During the remainder of my time 
in Europe nothing occurred nor were any opinions 
presented to modify materially these conclusions. 
Upon my return to London in August, shortly before 
my departure for the United States, I again can- 
vassed the situation, and discussed with a number 
of people the proper naval flying craft of the heavier- 
than-air type for counter-submarine defence. Opin- 
ions and conclusions were generally as I had found 
them before. 

On the first of September I landed in New York, 
and on the second of that month reported to my 
Chief, Rear-Admiral D. W. Taylor, in Washington. 
On that day and on the following days, as his en- 
gagements permitted, I gave him the opinions and 
conclusions arrived at as a result of my visit to 
Europe. During the time I was in Europe I had, of 
course, by letter, kept him fully informed of develop- 
ments there. I had given him my impressions of the 
drift of opinion regarding anti-submarine air measures, 
and of my conclusions regarding these opinions. To 
some extent, I discussed the subject of flying craft 
larger than anything at that time in successful use, 
and the reasons why these were considered desirable 


or undesirable. His interest in much larger flying 
craft than any the Navy was contemplating was im- 
mediate, and he required all possible information I 
could supply regarding this subject. This, as a 
matter of fact, was not a new interest with him. 
One of his final injunctions to me before my 
sailing was to examine carefully into the work 
which had been done in this direction. The re- 
ports I was able to give him were far from encourag- 
ing. To how great an extent he was discouraged by 
these reports may be judged from what I have al- 
ready recorded. 

It has been told how Admiral Taylor ordered the 
design of a transatlantic flying boat. He ampli- 
fied his order by specifying a large depth bomb carry- 
ing capacity, sufficient protection against smaller 
and faster craft, and a rapidity and simplicity of 
design making possible their early completion for 
war service. 

The reason for this imperative command was 
plain enough. The cry from Europe was for aid 
in overcoming the submarine. Ships were being 
sunk faster than they were being replaced, and the 
Allies were straining every nerve to overcome the 
menace that threatened. Many things were being 
tried, and few were yet accomplishing much, while 
the enemy was becoming more and more proficient, 
and more and more daring in the use of his under- 
water weapon. Patrol boats were being sent over 
by the score. Submarine chasers were being built 
by the hundred, and destroyers were being constructed 
in every available shipyard. 


It had become the practice, more and more, to 
equip all surface craft operating in submarine waters 
with depth charges of trinitrotoluol, generally known 
simply as TNT, a most powerful explosive, and 
one of great disruptive effect when exploded at a 
sufficient depth below the surface of the water. All 
ships were fitted for dropping bombs set to explode 
at regulated depths below the surface of the water. 
Some were fitted, in addition, with methods for throw- 
ing these bombs to limited distances in the attempt 
to place them nearer a position in which a submarine 
was possibly submerged. 

As soon as aircraft began to be employed for anti- 
submarine purposes, these aircraft were equipped with 
depth charges of this TNT, and with means where- 
by these charges could be dropped as near as pos- 
sible to the submarine attacked, or to the submerged 
position in which the submarine was thought to 
be. These aircraft charges were, at first, very small 
and of a very limited radius of action. As aircraft 
grew in size, however, chiefly due to increase in 
engine power, these charges increased in weight 
until they became sufficient to be of positive 
menace to submarines within 75 to 100 feet of their 
points of detonation. The limit in the size of these 
charges, due to the limit in the size of aircraft, of 
which I have spoken, seemed to have been reached. 

Other elements also were of great importance. As 
aircraft had grown in size, space required for ship- 
ping purposes had increased enormously. As a ship- 
load of large flying boats would mean a most une- 
conomical utilization of space so far as weight was 


concerned, the problem of providing sufficient cargo 
space, out of the rapidly decreasing tonnage avail- 
able, was a most serious matter. Later on, the Navy 
actually sent an entire shipload of two-motored flying 
boats to England, and though the ship in question was 
a large one the cargo carried on this occasion consisted 
of only twenty-five flying boats with accessories. 

The factors which limited the weights of the depth 
charges carried by aircraft limited the weight avail- 
able for gasoline for cruising purposes. Six hours 
was the limit of time a flying boat with its depth 
charges could keep the air. If necessary to seek 
submarines on operation grounds 100 miles from 
shore, this would mean, at the most, that these boats 
could spend only three hours patrolling against sub- 
marines, as they would require the other three hours 
for going from and returning to their stations. For 
distances farther out than 100 miles, or for convoying 
purposes for a slow convoy, aircraft of the heavier- 
than-air type must be regarded as practically useless. 

Naval Constructor Hunsaker and I had our orders. 
So ominous was the submarine situation that nothing 
of possible use must be neglected. Hopes were 
entertained that aircraft could help, but decreasing 
shipping was available for transporting them. It 
might be impossible to produce a flying boat which 
could fly across; it seemed quite impossible then; 
but if one could be produced the gain would be great. 
The submarine menace, and not any conscious in- 
tention of being the first to fly across the Atlantic, 
was the immediate reason for the undertaking of a 
seemingly impossible task. 



EE is largely a question of a man's reactions 
to the circumstances which surround and 
often circumscribe him. If a person has 
been set an absolutely impossible task he cannot 
react to it. From whatever direction he may ap- 
proach it, it looms up ever larger, more dispiriting, 
more forbidding, more terrifying. Since it is im- 
possible, no approach gets him anywhere, and, pres- 
ently, he has tried them all and is beaten. If it be 
not quite impossible, he may eventually open a path 
nearer to its centre, and, bit by bit, get on his way 
to complete penetration. 

The seemingly impossible task set on Monday 
seemed on Wednesday not quite impossible. Two 
days had been devoted to a discussion of the problem 
a flying boat for anti-submarine operations capable 
of flying across the Atlantic and the problem no 
longer seemed entirely beyond human capacity, 
as this capacity stood at that instant. It was de- 
cided to call in as soon as possible other men with 
knowledge of airplanes, to talk with them, to hear 
their views, and to compare ideas. The first man 
whose name suggested itself was Mr. Glenn H. 



Curtiss, president of the Curtiss Aeroplane and 
Motor Corporation, and he was invited by telegram 
to Washington for a discussion of the problem up 
for solution. 

As the name of Curtiss will appear very frequently 
in these pages, and as the engineering organization 
built up by the man from whom this name was ob- 
tained will be referred to with increasing frequency, 
this is an appropriate place in which to detail, as 
briefly as possible, the history of that remarkable 
man, and the incidents and events which led to his 
occupying a place in the aeronautical history of the 
United States of glory less only than that of the 
Wright brothers and of Langley. 

Glenn Hammond Curtiss was born in Hammonds - 
port, New York, on the 21st of May, 1878. With 
worldly possessions his parents were not well sup- 
plied. When he was four years of age his father 
died, and it became necessary for him, in a very few 
years, to work for a livelihood and to assist in the 
support of his family. When twelve years old, he 
was engaged in the assembling of cameras at the 
works of the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, 
and for the first few weeks during which he was en- 
gaged in this occupation, received the weekly pay of 
$4.00. He continued at work of this nature at in- 
creasing compensation for several years. 

We are assured by his biographer that at school 
he was particularly proficient in mathematical sub- 
jects. It seems certain, however, that the demands 
of poverty made his pursuit of school learning a 
brief one, and that his excursions in the fields of 


mathematics during this period were limited, and 
over rough ground. As has been the case with so 
many other men who have risen superior to the dis- 
advantages of early environment or circumstances, 
Glenn Curtiss's knowledge was acquired in small 
degree within the limited spaces enjoyed by village 
schools. Rather than in this way, this knowledge 
came to an intensive mind, not subject to the dis- 
couragements of limited opportunity, through exer- 
cise in that university which is the whole field of 
human knowledge and of scientific endeavour. 

After a few years in Rochester, family affairs 
drew him back to Hammondsport. His natural 
mechanical adaptiveness asserted itself, and he very 
shortly was engaged in the general work of bicycle 
repair, or, when that failed, due to the winter weather 
and the impassability of the roads, he did odd jobs 
of tinkering with machinery, of wiring houses for 
electric lights, or in some similar undertaking. 
This was in the late nineties when all the world was 
awheel, and he, naturally, rode bicycles as well as 
repaired them. He went far beyond the usual run 
of his associates, however, and developed the ability 
to obtain speed from a bicycle in a degree which 
made it possible for him to win a number of the local 
races in which he entered. This is a matter of some 
importance. It will be found throughout the career 
of this man that he has always been desirous of 
moving as rapidly through the air as the possibilities 
of the day have made practicable. There is no 
record of his ever having been a particularly fast 
rider on a bicycle. More than to speed, his victories 


were due to ability to analyze the situation and to 
out-think his opponents. It would have been most 
phenomenal had he ever held records for a man-driven 
bicycle, as he has always been a slight and slender 
man, without the necessary weight or physical vigour 
for the propelling force of a vehicle of this nature. 
In power-driven vehicles, however, it may be noted 
that, from time to time, he has held world records for 
speed on motorcycles, in speed boats, and in air- 
planes. He has never been attracted by speed 
possibilities of motor cars. This, it is safe to say, 
is the only reason he has not held records for this 
type of power-driven vehicle as well as for the others. 

At the age of twenty-two, he started his own bi- 
cycle repair shop. There he very shortly became 
interested in the application of the gasoline motor to 
the bicycle, and is probably the first man to combine 
the two successfully. This led him, during favour- 
able times of the year, into motorcycle racing, and in 
such races his defeats were so few as to be almost 
negligible. His motors were built by himself in a 
small factory erected in Hammondsport, and they 
very shortly attracted such favourable attention 
throughout the country that the enterprise of build- 
ing them enjoyed some degree of financial success. 

During the several years in which he rode as a 
professional motorcyclist, a number of the premier 
records of the world were established by him. On 
the 28th of January, 1904, on a motorcycle driven 
by a two-cycle engine, he made a record of 10 
miles in 8 minutes and 54 seconds which was 
far beyond anything previously accomplished. A 


few years later, on a cycle driven by an eight-cylin- 
der motor, he made a mile in 26| seconds, or at a 
speed of 137 miles per hour. This established a 
speed record for a power-driven vehicle unbeaten 
for several years by any type of motor-driven, man- 
carrying appliance. 

Two years after the establishment of this motor- 
cycle record, he had already progressed far enough in 
aviation, and in the development of airplanes, 
known at that day as flying machines, to win the 
James Gordon Bennett International Cup Race in 
Rheims, France. This was on August 29, 1909. 
In this race he was opposed by all of the best-known 
flyers of that day, and by the best-known airplanes 
at that time manufactured. His most redoubtable 
opponent was Monsieur Bleriot, the famous French 
aviator and airplane manufacturer, who was just fresh 
from his triumph of flying across the British Channel. 
In this race Monsieur Bleriot used one of his well- 
known monoplanes, motored with an 80-horsepower 
motor, whereas Mr. Curtiss relied upon a biplane, 
designed and built by himself, motored with an 
eight-cylinder, 50-horsepower motor, of very much 
the same type, though of very much less power, as 
the well-known Curtiss motor of the present day. 
On this day, Quentin Roosevelt, at that time a boy 
in his teens, was an interested spectator of the flight 
at Rheims, and was among the first to congratulate 
Mr. Curtiss when his victory was announced. From 
the inspiration of seeing this international race 
won by an American in Rheims may have come the 
determination which later led that Young Crusader 


to take to the air as his element, and, from this, 
to the laying of his life as a sacrifice on the 
altar of Liberty within a few miles of this historic 

Mr. Curtiss's first interest in motors for aircraft 
was stirred by Captain Thomas Baldwin, the famous 
balloonist, parachute jumper, and dirigible pilot. 
Captain Baldwin was attracted by the remarkable 
qualities of the motorcycle motors built by Curtiss 
in his Hammondsport plant, and travelled from 
California to Hammondsport to discuss with him 
the building of a motor suitable for his dirigible. 
This motor was built, and was used by Captain Bald- 
win in successful flights made by him during the 
World's Fair in St. Louis in 1904. From this asso- 
ciation grew a friendship which has continued to 
the present day. Its first immediate fruit was the 
successful building by Curtiss and Baldwin, in com- 
bination, of the first dirigible ordered by the War De- 
partment, and the first airship of any type built by 
Curtiss and his organization. This was a small, non- 
rigid dirigible, required to have the modest speed of 
20 miles an hour. At that time this was considered 
by no means modest. 

In 1905, in New York City, Mr. Curtiss became 
acquainted with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. This 
acquaintance may be said to mark the definite entry 
of Mr. Curtiss into the fields of activity in which he 
very shortly became so eminent. It was, indeed, a 
most fruitful one, and, judged by its results, must 
be regarded as one of the epochal meetings of mod- 
ern times . Doctor Bell was , at that time, interested in 


experiments with weight-lifting tetrahedral kites. 
He was concerned with the possibility of installing a 
motor in one of these kites, and invited Mr. Curtiss 
to visit him at his summer home in Nova Scotia to 
discuss the project. 

Mr. Curtiss visited Nova Scotia, and very shortly 
there was formed at the home of Doctor Bell an asso- 
ciation known as, "The Aerial Experiment Associa- 
tion." This association was very largely financed by 
Mrs. Bell, and consisted, besides Doctor Bell and Mr. 
Curtiss, of Mr. F. W. Baldwin and Mr. J. A. D. 
McCurdy, young Canadian mechanical engineers, and 
Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, of the United States 
Army. This association immediately interested it- 
self in the question of power-driven flight, and, after 
a short time, moved its headquarters to Hammonds- 
port, where the facilities for work were better. At 
Hammondsport their first experiments were with a 
glider. From this, however, they very quickly 
passed on to power-driven airplanes, and built in 
succession three of these of increasing merit. 

The first flight of an airplane, designed and built 
by this association, was made on March 12, 1908, 
by Mr. Baldwin, and ended, as might be expected, 
after a flight of 318 feet 11 inches, in a crash which 
badly smashed the machine. This flight, however, 
was remarkably successful from the viewpoint of the 
experimenters. To them it demonstrated the truth 
of the axiom that, "All which goes up must come 
down," but it also demonstrated the fundamental 
soundness of the theories on which their work was 
based, and the breaking of the plane, due to the inex- 


perience of the man flying it, was of no importance 
compared to this greater fact. 

Increasing experiments, breakages, repairs, and 
tests, with the building of additional airplanes, 
carried the knowledge of airplane design and manu- 
facture much farther, and there was, eventually, 
developed an airplane possessing many of the well- 
known characteristics of the Curtiss airplanes used 
so successfully for training purposes since that time. 
On May 22, 1908, Mr. Curtiss, in one of these air- 
planes, flew a distance of 1,017 feet, and landed with- 
out damage. For that particular time and for an 
organization of so little experience, this was a re- 
markable accomplishment. On the 4th of July of 
that year, in the third machine designed by the 
association, and named by them the June Bug, 
he won a trophy offered by the Scientific American 
for a one-kilometer flight in public. On this occa- 
sion he flew a distance slightly in excess of one mile, 
and landed only because he was approaching woods, 
and had not yet had sufficient flying experience 
to make it desirable to attempt a turn. 

Shortly after the winning of the Scientific Ameri- 
can cup, the association had their first great mis- 
fortune. This was met in the death of Lieutenant 
Selfridge, who was killed while flying with Orville 
Wright, at Fort Meyer, Va. The accident result- 
ing in the death of Lieutenant Selfridge was caused 
by the breaking of one of the propellers of the Wright 
airplane, and was the first airplane accident in this 
country to result in the death of a flyer. This was 
a severe blow to the association, to whom the un- 


tiring activity and the great technical ability of 
Lieutenant Selfridge had been of the greatest assist- 
ance, and to Mr. Curtiss personally, as between him- 
self and Lieutenant Selfridge there had developed a 
very warm attachment. 

The most spectacular of the personal flight achieve- 
ments of Mr. Curtiss was that made by him on 
Sunday, May 31, 1910, from Albany, N. Y., to New 
York City. This flight won a $10,000 prize offered 
by the New York World. 

The distance was slightly over 150 miles, which, 
at that time, was a very great distance for an air- 
plane to fly. Of more importance than the distance, 
however, was the fact that the route over the gorge 
of the Hudson River is one of the worst air routes 
in the entire world. To-day, even, with all uncer- 
tainty eliminated regarding the behaviour of air- 
planes, and with powerful engines of a large reserve 
of power, few flyers voluntarily essay this flight. 
If forced to do so, they fly at altitudes generally 
greater than the world's height record of that date 
so as to avoid the diverse air currents invariably met 
with on this route. 

From whatever direction the wind may blow, it 
tumbles into the Hudson gorge, over hills and through 
valleys, and there it boils, surges, rises, and falls, 
to such an extent that at any level above this river 
up to 500 to 2,000 feet, the air is disturbed to a most 
surprising extent. Any one flying through it is 
beaten and buffeted, and maintains his course and 
his level with difficulty, and only by the exercise of 
the greatest amount of skill. Mr. Curtiss, flying 


over a greater portion of this distance at a very 
low altitude, was subjected to many of the 
worst conditions of this course. This was a new, 
and must certainly have been a disquieting, 
experience. He was successful, however, and 
after a stop near Poughkeepsie, and another 
stop near the Harlem River, he continued on to 
Governor's Island and made his final landing 

Very shortly after the winning of the Scientific 
American trophy there developed on the part of 
Mr. Curtiss an active interest in the subject of 
flying from water. There followed the experiments 
which resulted in making Mr. Curtiss the leading 
developer of watercraft, and which had the further 
happy effect of preserving for the United States, 
the original home of aviation, in this one direction 
of aeronautical development the distinction of being, 
if not preeminent, at least abreast of the develop- 
ment in any other portion of the world. 

The first results of this interest were of very little 
promise. The late June Bug was fitted with 
floats, was rechristened the Loon, and, under this 
discouraging cognomen, made an attempt to fly 
from the water. Due to the added weight, and to 
the fact that it is more difficult to obtain necessary 
speed on water for flying purposes than it is to 
obtain this speed on land, it was impossible to get 
this first seaplane into the air. 

It seems quite probable that the attempted flights 
with the Loon were the first actual attempts made 
to support an airplane on the water by means of 


floats, and to fly it therefrom. The idea involved, 
however, is claimed by more than one man, and is 
one concerning which there has been considerable 
patent litigation. Most of the developments se- 
cured at Hammondsport were made the subject oft 
patent applications, and the fitting of pontoons to 
aircraft in order to fit them for flying from the 
water was so covered. 

Continued experiments gave better results. These 
experiments had been transferred to North Island, 
San Diego, California, where weather conditions 
were such as to make flying the year around practi- 
cable. This island has, of late years, been used by 
both the Army and Navy for training purposes, and 
on it, at the present time, is located one of the large 
aviation training stations maintained by the Navy 
Department. It was Mr. Curtiss who first saw the 
suitability of this island and of this locality for the 
training of flying men, and his good judgment has 
been proved by the expenditure on the part of the 
military departments of millions of dollars in the 
building up of their stations there. 

One of Mr. Curtiss's first ideas after securing an 
encouraging degree of success in his airplane experi- 
ments was the possibility of training Government 
aviators for the military purposes of the Govern- 
ment. In response to his offer to the War and Navy 
Departments to undertake this work, there were sent 
to San Diego officers of both military departments. 
Since that time, there have been trained under the 
direct supervision of Mr. Curtiss, or in airplanes 
designed or built by his company, fully nine tenths 


of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps aviators of 
the United States Forces. 

With his military students, Mr. Curtiss took in 
hand his further experiments on water flying craft, 
and on the 26th of January, 1912, accomplished the 
first successful flights with an airplane of this char- 
acter. This airplane was of the float type, and in it 
Mr. Curtiss and his flying students made many 
flights. It gave way rapidly, however, to the idea 
of the flying boat which Mr. Curtiss originated; and 
the result has been that this type of flying craft has 
been associated, and will continue to be associated, 
with the name of Curtiss. Rapid improvements in 
engines and in the design of the details of the sea- 
planes themselves, perfected these flying boats, and 
in a comparatively short time Curtiss boats, as well 
as the ordinary biplanes of the typical Curtiss de- 
sign, became known over a considerable portion of 
the world. 

The Wright brothers, to whom the credit belongs 
for the fundamental developments which have made 
modern flight possible, seemed to have done their 
life work, and from them little other development of 
promise had been secured. They had given flight 
to the world and apparently had then settled back in 
some degree of contentment to take their ease and 
to enjoy their own quiet scientific investigations. 
Little or no advance in airplane design or construc- 
tion came from them, and the result was that the 
name of Curtiss became synonymous with the prog- 
ress in aviation being made in the United States. 
After the death of Wilbur Wright on May 30, 1912, 

(Upper left) Glenn Curtiss, Father of Aquatic Aviation 

(Upper right) Commander G. C. Wester velt, U. S. N., who supervised 

the designing and building of the N.C. craft (Photo by Marceau) 
(Lower left} Commander A. C. Read, U. S. N., who commanded the 

N.C. 4 on her epoch-making flight. (Photo by Paul Thompson) 
(Lower right) Commander H. C. Richardson, U. S. N., who commanded 

the N.C. 3 on the trans- Atlantic flight, and who had much to do 

with the designing and building of the four N.C's. 


the Wrights practically disappeared as airplane 
developers or manufacturers. Orville Wright, a 
particularly gentle, sweet-tempered, and lovable man 
oi quiet tastes, is by nature an investigative phys- 
icist. At his home in Dayton he has provided 
himself with an experimental laboratory and being, 
happily, of sufficient means for his simple tastes, has 
devoted himself to calm, untroubled, and unhurried 
pursuit of the answers to certain unsolved questions. 
From him, from time to time, are received bits of 
scientific knowledge of use to the Fellows of his pro- 
fession, but outside of that limited circle the busi- 
ness of the world proceeds and knows not of him, 
except that, with his brother, he belongs to history 
as one of the Great. 

Glenn Curtiss, on the contrary, has with his greater 
business instinct invaded the world, and has spread 
his flying craft around wherever civilization is and 
men are interested in the conquest of the air. For 
this fact, the United States owes to him a debt of 
gratitude. With almost no encouragement from 
the Government of this country, and frequently 
under circumstances of the utmost discouragement, 
he held aloft the banner of American determina- 
tion. It results that, throughout the world, where 
aeronautical development before the World War was 
discussed, Curtiss was discussed, and wherever aero- 
nautical achievements were dwelt upon, it was pos- 
sible to cite those of Glenn Curtiss and his organi- 
zation, and to avoid the humiliation of an acknowl- 
edgment of complete inertia. 

Up to the outbreak of the World War in 1914 


there had not, it is probable, been placed in this 
country an order with an airplane manufacturer for 
more than six airplanes of any one type at any one 
time. Up to this time the total expenditures of the 
War Department and of the Navy Department for 
aeronautics in all its phases had certainly not been 
in excess of $4,000,000. Under such discouraging 
circumstances courage and tenacity were required to 
carry on. Except for the fact of popular interest in 
airplane tests and in airplane exhibits, it would have 
been impossible for the airplane industry to exist at 
all in this country. On this foundation of sand the 
Curtiss organization was built. In his ability to 
keep this organization together, to expand it grad- 
ually, and even to pay the members of it from time 
to time, as funds became available, Mr. Curtiss 
showed himself a financial genius of ability at least 
equal to his mechanical ability. There were many 
times when the last dollar must have been in 
sight, and when all work was being continued on 
the basis of hope and of such credit as could be 

When the Great War came, the Curtiss Aeroplane 
Company was, in reality, the only airplane company 
in this country deserving of such a designation. To 
them there applied, naturally, purchasing agents of 
the British Government, scouring the world for 
every possibility of securing the necessary military 
appliances. With the same degree of optimism 
which had made it possible for him to win over al- 
most insurmountable obstacles, Mr. Curtiss accepted 
from these purchasing agents contracts for him- 


dreds, and even thousands, of airplanes, of various 
types. In some way the money was found to 
finance the enterprise; the organization built up by 
him was moved from the sleepy little village of 
Hammondsport to the industrial city of Buffalo, 
and there the first real plant of the Curtiss Aero- 
plane and Motor Corporation was erected. 

To a certain extent, there slipped from Mr. Cur- 
tiss's hands control of his own affairs when this 
larger field was entered. He is not a man who gets 
his happiness from the campaigns of large business 
undertakings, and it was, undoubtedly, with the 
greatest degree of satisfaction that he was able to 
capitalize his past experience, and to secure for him- 
self, and for the faithful associates who had stuck 
by him through thick and thin, the rewards made pos- 
sible by the enormous amount of business now of- 
fered. Upon other shoulders he unloaded most of the 
burdens of manufacturing activity, and withdrew 
himself more and more into the quieter, calmer at- 
mosphere of experiment and engineering develop- 

Among Mr. Curtiss's associates it is a well-known 
fact that the harsh climatic conditions of Hammonds- 
port and of Buffalo were not to his liking. In his 
mind there had formed the determination to escape 
from them, and from the cares and troubles of 
large manufacturing activities, when the opportunity 
presented itself. To these facts are due the con- 
struction of the plant of the Curtiss Engineering Cor- 
poration at Garden City, N. Y.; and to them must 
be ascribed the fact that a plant of this nature was 


constructed at a location so little suited for such a 

His biographer has recorded, in discussing the 
activities of his early life, "Thus Curtiss went 
ahead with his work to construct and improve his 
motors, and improvement came with each successive 
one. Meantime, Curtiss began to receive inquiries 
and even some orders, and business took a decidedly 
favourable turn. Half a dozen fellow townsmen be- 
came interested enough in Curtiss's motorcycle 
experiments to put money into the business, and 
within a short time a little factory was built on the 
hill back of Grandma Curtiss's house. It was an 
inconvenient place to put up a factory, and all the 
heavy material was hauled up to it with some dif- 
ficulty. In spite of these little obstacles; in spite of 
the fact that Hammondsport is located at the end 
of a little branch railroad, which seems to the visitor 
to run only as the spirit moves the engineer in 
spite of every handicap, the business grew rapidly." 
So may it be with the plant at Garden City! The 
factory built by Curtiss, the boy, behind Grandma 
Curtiss's house, was built there without any special 
business reason, but because Curtiss, the boy, wanted 
it there. Due to the genius of the boy it prospered. 
For all we know there may be no better reason 
for the location of the factory built by Curtiss, 
the man, on the pleasant plains of Garden City 
May the genius of Curtiss, the man, cause it also 
to prosper. 

Glenn Curtiss is a man beloved of his associ- 
ates. He has that rare quality, of leadership 


which breaks the path loyal, unquestioning fol- 
lowers keep with him. Men who started with him 
in Hammondsport are with him yet. The ap- 
praisal put on the ability of these men is Curtiss's 
appraisal, and they have been rewarded accord- 
ingly. It may be that some have been rewarded 
beyond their actual deserts, but, almost without 
exception, they have given loyalty and support, 
and the affection which one man feels for an 
admired and trusted leader. These are among the 
things one cannot buy and which are beyond any 

Mr. Curtiss is of medium height and slender. 
Prosperity has brought to him no increase in girth. 
His face is keen, his head of medium size, and his 
features sharp. In general, he has the lean, keen, 
falcon-like look one associates in one's mind with 
a man of the air. He is quiet, gentle, and with- 
out self-assertiveness. His manner is just the least 
bit embarrassed, and his opinions are given some- 
what hesitatingly, as if by one who waits for agree- 
ment from time to time, and for the encouragement 
which comes from this agreement. 

In all great developments the pioneers who have 
first achieved success, after the patient plodding of 
their many forerunners, seem to have moved for a 
time with seven-league boots. After them come 
the plodders who move a few inches at a time. 
These speeds often are relative only. The develop- 
ment of the fundamentals is the great work, and 
carries the human race centuries in advance in a few 
moments of time. After that, progress is won only 


by steps, and no further great advances except by 
the step-by-step method seem possible. 

It has been Mr. Curtiss's good fortune to progress 
for a while in his seven-league boots, and to ac- 
complish in a few months the work of years. At the 
present time, however, he is an inch-by-inch plodder 
with the rest of us, but liable at any time, perhaps, to 
break once more into his natural stride, to leave the 
plodders still plodding on behind. 

The airplane built by Professor Langley, but not 
flown successfully until years afterward when Mr. 
Curtiss himself flew it at Hammondsport, the first air- 
plane built and flown by the Wright brothers, the first 
seaplane built and flown by Mr. Curtiss, all weighed 
less than a thousand pounds. The N. C. boats as 
they took the air for the flight to the Azores weighed 
about twenty-eight thousand pounds. Pound by 
pound the sizes grew from the first to the latest of 
the series. From each one something was learned. 
The N. C. boats embody the knowledge gained from 
all of their forerunners, and a number of these fore- 
runners are shown here so that appreciation may be 
had of the steps through which this development has 
been secured. 

In reply to a telegram from Admiral Taylor, Mr. 
Curtiss arrived at the Navy Department on the 
following morning with two of his designing staff, 
Mr. W. L. Gilmore and Mr. Henry Kleckler. 
After a preliminary discussion with Mr. Hunsaker 
and myself, an appointment was made with Admiral 
Taylor. In the discussion which followed there was 
laid down the broad precept of the design aimed at. 


Into this discussion there entered definitely the prop- 
osition that the seaplane produced should, if possible, 
be capable of sustained flight from Newfoundland to 
Ireland. If this proved impracticable, it, at least, 
should be capable of a sustained flight from Newfound- 
land to the Azores, and its characteristics should, in 
general, be those outlined in the first chapter. 

After the conference with Admiral Taylor, the 
Curtiss representatives, Hunsaker, and myself, dis- 
cussed the general characteristics of a flying boat of 
the type aimed at, the engine horsepower available, 
and the size of the craft which it might be necessary 
or desirable to attempt. Mr. Curtiss and his assist- 
ants returned to Buffalo to prepare, as rapidly as 
possible, for early discussion, general suggestions as 
to type, sizes, powers, and general arrangements, in 
accordance with the tentative conclusions at which 
we had arrived. 

Two or three days later, the Curtiss trio returned 
to Washington with general arrangement plans of 
two suggestions. One suggestion was for a five- 
motored boat of roughly 1,700 horsepower, the other 
for a three-motored boat of roughly 1,000 horse- 
power. Both were biplanes, and were similar in 
general except for the differences in size made pos- 
sible by the differences in power. 

The boats for which these outline plans were sub- 
mitted differed from the conventional type of flying 
boat in that the hulls were considerably shorter, 
and the tails, instead of being supported on these 
hulls, were supported on booms carried from the 
hull and from the wings. In general, there was em- 


ployed in these rough suggestions an idea embodied 
by the Curtiss Company in a flying boat which they 
designated a "flying life boat." In this boat the 
hull was very short, the tail planes were carried oil 
extension booms, and an arrangement had been made 
whereby, if desired, the wings and the tail could be 
dumped overboard, and the boat could proceed under 
the power of the engine, which was mounted in the 
hull, and drove the propellers through chains and 
gearing. In this larger design no such arrangement 
with regard to the wings or to the location of the 
engines was proposed. There was, in general, a 
similarity in the two types, however, though the 
flying life boat was a triplane and the proposal for 
the larger boats called for biplanes. . 

General dimensions only, estimated weight and 
horsepowers, were submitted with these proposals. 
It hardly can be said that any definite or concrete 
design was presented. The drawing of a picture 
indicating what an airplane will look like is the 
smallest part of the work of design. There had been 
made, at least, a definite suggestion that the craft 
designed be either a three-motor or a five-motor fly- 
ing boat, and certain guesses, based on extensive 
experience, as to the general sizes and weight char- 
acteristics of these boats. With no more than this 
as a basis of discussion, another conference was ar- 
ranged with Admiral Taylor, and the result of the 
labours of the several preceding days was presented to 

Admiral Taylor is used to thinking in terms of 
150,000 to 200,000 horsepower, as the latest ships 


designed by him were for such powers, and was, 
perhaps, a bit inclined to turn up his nose at the 
paltry thousand horsepower proposed for the three- 
motored seaplane. The one of 1,700 horsepower was 
a bit more impressive and in line with his ideas of 
what real size should be. 

After consideration, however, of the greater diffi- 
culties involved, the greater uncertainties which 
would be introduced by this larger size into a prob- 
lem already difficult enough, the smaller, three- 
motored design, was decided upon. 

The Liberty engine, although of the greatest 
promise, was certainly not such a proved instrument 
at that date that we could afford to gamble upon it 
to an unnecessary extent. It was feared that the re- 
sult of undertaking the larger development would be 
a delay in completion of such seriousness that we 
could hardly have a finished craft ready for use 
during any period for which the war might be ex- 
pected to extend. In the conclusion reached these 
considerations were given much weight. 

Whether we were right in this or wrong, no one 
could now say with authority. Certainly, with the 
knowledge gained since that date, it would be pos- 
sible to design and build much larger, and somewhat 
more efficient, flying boats, but it is possible we might 
have failed had we tried it then. 






THE noted English authority on aeronautics, 
Mr. F. H. Lanchester, proved, to his own 
satisfaction, some years ago, that there is a 
limited size beyond [which heavier-than-air craft 
cannot be constructed. Fortunately for his own 
reputation, and for the future of the science, he found 
it possible to make the reservation that his discussion 
and proof applied merely to methods of construction 
at that time in general use. The basis of his demon- 
stration was a simple one. The sustaining power of 
an airplane depends on the area of its wings and the 
square of its speed, whereas its weight, being a ques- 
tion of the volume of its members, is a function of the 
cube of its dimensions. It is quite evident from this 
that increasing size would rapidly bring about a state 
of affairs which would make flight impossible. 

Mr. Lanchester did not, of course, suppose 
that engineers would rest content with the methods 
of construction already adopted, but was merely 
pointing out as an interesting discussion the limit in 
size imposed by the types of construction in use at the 
time of his discussion. This discussion accepted 



engine weights as they were, and did not, of course, 
attempt to argue that the future would see no re- 
duction in such weights. 

Since the publication by Mr. Lanchester of the 
article referred to, there had been very pronounced 
improvements in aeronautical engines. Powers had 
risen rapidly and weights per horsepower had fallen. 
This had made possible building of materially larger 
airplanes of the same type of construction as 
those previously built. It was quite evident, how- 
ever, that the limits of this type of construction, 
although these limitations were above those es- 
tablished theoretically by Mr. Lanchester, had been 
very nearly reached. As a matter of fact, Com- 
mander Porte's lack of the fullest success with the 
large flying boats built by himself was due to his 
adherence to conventional methods of design. The 
result had been increased weight of such an amount 
that the increasing size brought little advantage 
beyond the mere ability to carry the greater struc- 
tural weight of the airplane itself. In one large 
airplane only, of the period of which I speak, had 
there been any consistent engineering investigation of 
structural modifications. In this one, the Handley- 
Page, it had been demonstrated that the adoption 
of new methods of construction made possible larger 
sizes without the increase in weight of structural 
members which an adherence to conventional con- 
struction would have involved. 

The measure of the success of an airplane, whether 
of land or of the water type, is found in what is con- 
ventionally designated as its "useful load." This is 


the portion of the weight of an airplane, in full-load 
flying condition, not contained in the structure itself. 
It comprises, for an ordinary machine, the fuel, 
lubricating oil, the cooling water for the engines, the 
members of the crew with their clothing, and all of 
the small, unattached accessories required for the 
general operation of an airplane. In military ma- 
chines this useful load would also comprise guns, 
ammunition, bombs, and the necessary accessories 
such as sights, direction indicators, etc. Ordinarily, 
this measure of effectiveness is indicated by a per- 
centage, and among aeronautical designers you will 
hear that such and such a machine has a useful load 
of 30 to 40 per cent., or of any percentage it may 
happen to have, this being the percentage of the 
total load represented by the useful load as above 
described. With decreasing weight per horsepower 
and with increasing horsepower, this useful load has 
been steadily, though not rapidly, on the increase. 
Progress in the design of heavier-than-air craft can 
be made only if this percentage of useful load can be 
still further increased. 

So far as our information extended, the useful load 
of the Handley-Page night bombers, those famous 
British machines which were the cause of so much 
annoyance to our late enemies, the Germans, ex- 
ceeded that of any other machine of any weight-carry- 
ing ability. It was, roughly, in the neighbourhood 
of 40 per cent., and this percentage set the standard 
at which we must aim. If we could equal this per- 
centage, our design would be considered reasonably 
successful. By the extent to which we fell below 


this, it mlist be considered as less successful, and by 
the amount to which we reached above it, an im- 
provement on the best yet produced. The Handley- 
Page night bombing airplane of that period was 
motored with two 275-horsepower Rolls-Royce mo- 
tors, and was of a full flying load of about 11,000 
pounds. As we started our design on the basis of 
1,000 horsepower, and a full flying load of approxi- 
mately 25,000 pounds, it was evident that improve- 
ments over the engineering structure of the Handley- 
Page must be made if a useful load percentage equal 
to the one of that craft was to be obtained ; and that 
very material improvements in structure must be 
secured if this useful load ratio was to be exceeded. 

In the Liberty engine there was available motive 
power of less weight per horsepower than in any 
equally powerful engine in existence. It may be 
noted at this point that, since the date treated of, 
this engine has undergone various modifications 
which have increased its power without a corjespond- 
ing increase in weight. To-day this engine is mate- 
rially lighter per horsepower than any other equally 
powerful engine known. At the time of the com- 
mencement of our design, this lightness was of ma- 
terial value; since that time the greater power which 
has been obtained, without a corresponding increase 
in weight, has been of increasing value. 

In designing the structure of a large airplane, cer- 
tain inescapable dead weights, such as those of the 
engines, propellers, radiators, gasoline tanks, etc., 
must be accepted. In addition there must be ac- 
cepted the weight of a minimum crew, and of other 


items of this nature. It will be found in the final 
weight analysis that the weight of the final structure 
is roughly three to four times the weight of the ines- 
capable items. If, therefore, due to the greater 
lightness of an engine per horsepower there appears 
in this inescapable dead weight an advantage of, say, 
one hundred pounds over some other engine, there 
will appear in the finished airplane as a whole a final 
advantage of from three hundred to four hundred 
pounds over an airplane designed for the heavier 
engine. This was an advantage we enjoyed from 
the Liberty engine in undertaking the design of this 
large flying boat, and one which has worked in our 
favour with every increase in the power of this great 
engine which has not involved a corresponding in- 
crease in weight. 

There were, in September, 1917, about twenty 
draftsmen in the aeronautical design force of the 
Bureau of Construction and Repair. The majority 
of these draftsmen were immediately put to work in 
connection with certain important details of design 
of the three-motored flying boat, on which it had 
been decided to embark. 

All structural elements such as wing beams, the 
ribs, wing struts, tail booms, and the compression 
struts in the wings, required many investigations. 
It was found, very shortly, that these investigations 
must be so extensive that the technical force of the 
Bureau of Construction and Repair, under Naval 
Constructor Hunsaker, would be quite insufficient 
for undertaking them. There were, at this time, 
many aeronautical problems requiring immediate 


investigation, and the burden upon the technical 
department of the Bureau was as great as it could 
carry. It was necessary to adopt some other basis of 
investigation of structural details and of design of 
the boat to be built. 

Admiral Taylor determined to transfer the design, 
and the major portion of the investigations in connec- 
tion with it, to the engineering department of the 
Curtiss Aeroplane Company in Buffalo. The Bureau, 
under an arrangement of this sort, would maintain a 
close control over the work, and would exercise su- 
pervision of such a nature that the design itself would 
be one largely representing the detailed opinions of 
the Bureau andt)f its representatives. This was a 
decision promising many advantages, due, among 
other things, to an inherent feature of Navy Depart- 
ment organization. The Navy Department is or- 
ganized into bureaus dealing with certain definite 
functions. The Bureau of Construction and Repair, 
for example, deals with the design of the structures of 
ships, or of aircraft, and of the structural accessories; 
the Bureau of Steam Engineering deals with the 
design of propelling machinery, and of accessories 
of the propelling machinery; the Bureau of Ordnance 
deals with the design of guns, ordnance materials, 
and their general accessories. These bureaus are 
independent of each other, a common control of 
them being exercised by the Secretary of the Navy. 
In a design undertaking of the nature of the one 
under discussion, three bureaus, at least, would be in- 
volved, and the common control of these details 
would be encountered at no place short of the Sec- 


retary of the Navy. Carrying out a design of this 
nature at the Curtiss plant would place all details 
under one organization. Although subject, to some 
extent, to the same divided authority commented on, 
this division of authority would be much less import- 
ant than if experienced in the Navy Department, 
since all details would, in any event, be under the 
one employee of the Curtiss Company appointed to 
general supervision of the work. 

Up to the point reached, the work done had been 
performed on the initiative of Admiral Taylor, under 
his authority as Chief of one of the Navy Depart- 
ment bureaus. To continue it beyond this point, 
and into a field requiring work of other Navy De- 
partment bureaus, involved approval and coopera- 
tion of these bureaus. This approval and coopera- 
tion Admiral Taylor now sought. 

The organization of the Navy Department, when 
understood, is logical and fairly simple. For the 
uninitiated, it is not always easy to understand. 
A project of the nature of the one referred to can be 
conceived of and initiated by any one of the Navy 
Department bureaus concerned in any of its details. 
After such conception and initiation, it must, first 
of all, be approved by the Division of Operations. 
This is a division which for the Navy Department 
takes the place of the General Staff in the Army. 
It is responsible for the general conduct of operations; 
for the proper military application and use of all 
military instruments and appliances; for the proper 
military coordination of different departmental 
divisions; and for the inclusion under the military 


requirements of all military instruments needed for 
operations under contemplation. The actual pro- 
vision of such instruments is left to the technical 
departments specializing in such matters; the use 
of these instruments and, to a large extent, the 
forethought which decrees their provision, lie with 
the Division of Operations. The approval, by this 
division, therefore, of the design and building of this 
large flying boat was necessary. 

The Division of Operations approved of the pro- 
posed design as a military project; the Bureau of 
Steam Engineering, which would be concerned in 
the technical work of the design in a very great de- 
gree, added its recommendation; and with the ap- 
proval of Operations, and the joint recommendation 
of Rear-Admiral Griffin, of the Bureau of Steam 
Engineering, and Rear- Admiral Taylor, of the Bureau 
of Construction and Repair, it was ready for sub- 
mission to the Secretary of the Navy. 

The reference of this project to the Secretary of the 
Navy secured very promptly his enthusiastic ap- 
proval. All necessary steps had now been taken to 
go ahead, and it was possible to make arrange- 
ments for the actual work of design. This involved 
a contract with the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor 
Corporation for the work to be done by them. 

To meet the difficulties of the cost uncertainties, 
a contract was worked out on a modified basis of 
cost, plus a certain profit on the determined cost. 
Here difficulties were met with in definitely drawing 
the terms of the contract. There was arrived at, after 
consideration, a contract in which the Curtiss Com- 


pany undertook the work of design on the basis re- 
quired of it by the Navy Department, and was to be 
compensated as follows: All labour and material 
charges ordinarily made directly against a job of this 
nature were to be directly charged; to this amount 
was to be added a charge of 100 per cent., or an 
amount equal to the direct charges, for certain in- 
tangibles and indirect expenses; and to the sum of 
these two amounts there was to be added a profit 
of 10 per cent. The total amount thus obtained 
would represent the cost to the Navy Department. 

Among the items referred to as intangibles were 
considered to be a number of elements, the value 
of which, or the relation of which to the cost of work 
of this nature, could not be definitely ascertained. 
The existence of the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor 
Corporation as an organization had been brought 
about as the result of a number of years of effort and 
expenditure. The momentum of this organization 
was of value, and in a portion of the 100 per cent, 
for intangibles this was to be taken into considera- 
tion. The engineering experience and suggestions 
of Mr. Glenn Curtiss, and of the engineers under 
him, were also of value, and would be utilized in 
connection with this design. No possible measuring 
device, however, could determine the extent to 
which the cost to the Curtiss Company for their ser- 
vices and experience could be proportioned to any 
one project as compared to the others, and in the 
100 per cent, for intangibles it was the intention of 
the parties to the contract that an allowance be 
included for such services. In addition, there were 


represented in this 100 per cent, the ordinarily 
understood items of overhead expenses commonly 
distributed in commercial organizations, such as 
power, rent, heat and light, depreciation, insurance, 
etc., items accurately determinable in their totals, 
but impossible of definite distribution to individual 
items in progress. 



THE city of Buffalo, on Lake Erie, has been 
identified with the development of large 
flying boats. It was in Buffalo that the 
Curtiss Company built their factory very shortly 
after the outbreak of the World War. Up to this 
time flying boat sizes attempted by them had not 
been very great. In their plant located at Ham- 
mondsport, New York, they had constructed, for 
Lieutenant Cyril Forte's projected attempt to 
cross the Atlantic, the flying boat America, which 
represented the largest flying boat design up to that 
time. At the Buffalo plant, however, they very soon 
produced flying boats of a much larger type, although 
there were no engines at that time available in this 
country for power. These boats were, accordingly, 
shipped to England without engines, and were there 
fitted with Rolls-Royce engines. In one type of 
aircraft alone did the United States, up to the time 
of our entry into the World War, possess designs of 
equal merit with those developed on the other side. 
This was in flying boats. As a matter of fact, Mr. 
Glenn Curtiss's work in the development of water 
flying craft was of such a nature that the result has 



been that the United States, if anything, has been 
ahead of the remainder of the world in the develop- 
ment of such craft. It is some small satisfaction to 
know that the country which first developed the 
airplane at least held as much priority in progress 
as this, and with this progress Glenn Curtiss and the 
Curtiss organization are indissolubly associated. 

In Buffalo the Curtiss Company was located in 
various buildings in several portions of the city. Only 
one of these buildings had been built especially for the 
Curtiss Company, or for airplane construction work. 
The others had been rented for their availability, 
or because they could be secured for low rentals. 

The Experimental Engineering Department was 
located in an old building on the Niagara River at the 
foot of Austin Street. This building had, at one 
time, been the power station of an electric lighting 
concern, supplying light and power to that section of 
the city. It had been vacant for years and, as may 
well be imagined, was in disrepair and little suited 
to the purpose for which it was employed. In it, 
however, had been assembled the personnel of the 
Experimental Engineering Department, and in it was 
done the experimental engineering work for the Cur- 
tiss organization. 

The Curtiss organization has been a never-ending 
source of wonderment to most persons connected 
with the Navy Department who have come into 
contact with it. Up to the outbreak of the World 
War, when a sudden expansion took place in its 
activities, it was founded very much on the basis of 
a particularly congenial family. Mr. Curtiss was 


the head of this family. He was the undoubted 
head the fountain of inspiration and the provider 
of all good things. When times were hard, which 
they have often been, all suffered together. When 
times improved, they all benefited together. When 
it became possible to provide good things for this 
family, Mr. Curtiss was unquestionably a "good 
provider" and stinted his family for nothing. It is 
probable that, at all times, the wages and salaries 
in the Curtiss Company have been considerably 
higher than those which would have been enjoyed 
by the recipients elsewhere. Often, it is proba*ble, 
they did not receive these wages or salaries, but this 
was a misfortune, and in no sense any one's fault, 
and was due, merely, to the absence of funds, and 
certainly not to anybody's disinclination to disburse 
them. Some fell by the wayside under this rise and 
fall of family fortune; but those who stuck came 
into their reward when the Great War broke out 
and their organization was given large contracts by 
the British Government. As a result of these con- 
tracts, their organization immediately became the 
object of considerable solicitude on the part of finan- 
ciers who were engaged in the laudable enterprise 
of spoon-feeding war babies. It grew accordingly. 
A plant of considerable size was built in Buffalo; 
the other buildings referred to were taken over; they 
embarked on large and profitable contracts for the 
British Government; and, if signs do not fail, made 
money. The head of the family is as shrewd as he is 
kindly. He looked out for the interests of his 
associates as he did for those of himself. Those 


who had been loyal to him through thick and thin, 
and who had found him loyal to them, found that 
this loyalty was not one of degree only, but was a 
temperamental characteristic. His associates found 
themselves with real salaries even further raised, 
and with considerable quantities of stock in an or- 
ganization quoted on curb exchanges at rapidly in- 
creasing values. The small group of associates held 
together by a common interest, common affection, 
and by the genius of their family head, now found 
themselves financiers and the possessors of real 
liquid assets. 

One other effect, however, sprang from the sud- 
den development of the situation. The organiza- 
tion building two airplanes, or a half dozen, may 
whittle them out by hand and build them as an in- 
dividual or family matter. The organization with 
an order on its books for a thousand airplanes must 
manufacture them. A difference is introduced as 
great as that from the North to the South Pole, or 
as that of the temperament of two men. Under the 
strain of manufacturing airplanes, the Curtiss family 
showed weaknesses. There were then called in manu- 
facturing experts. The experts took charge and 
decided, to their own satisfaction, that the members 
of the Curtiss family were not manufacturers, and 
must not be allowed to become such. Something, 
however, must be done with them. They were 
the real owners and controllers of the organization 
and could not be calmly and blandly invited to get 
out. Accordingly, there was developed for them, 
as one by one they were displaced from positions u? 


the manufacturing organization, an experimental 
engineering plant where they could experiment 
and develop to their hearts' content, hold their 
family organization intact, and continue on the same 
old status they had found so attractive in the past. 
From this grew and developed the engineering de- 
partment in the old power house on Austin Street. 
Mr. Curtiss was still the head of the whole organ- 
ization and his office was in the main plant. His 
heart and his mind, however, were in the Austin 
Street plant with Harry, and Henry,, and Carl, and 
the rest of the boys. 

Into the midst of this happy family was introduced 
the waif of whom I have been speaking. To their 
tender mercies it was to be, in a great degree, com- 

The first difficulty encountered was in connec- 
tion with the name. Upon the few plans presented 
by the Curtiss Company, indicating their ideas of a 
big flying boat design, the name of the design had 
been given as TH. These letters were chosen from 
the Curtiss series, whereby designs are indicated in 
sequence, and had no other significance. It seemed 
to me that a design of such size and of such ambitious 
intentions should be dignified by a name more 
definite than two meaningless letters and I changed 
this name to D. W. T. These were the initials of 
Rear-Admiral David W. Taylor's name. I had not, 
however, [consulted Admiral Taylor regarding this 
matter, and upon discussion with other men in the 
Construction Corps, I decided that such a name would 
fail to find his favour. Once more the name was 


changed. This time I chose the name of N.C.I. 
Under this name the design has developed and grown; 
the flying boats have been built and flown. In this 
name, the N is for Navy, the C for Curtiss, and the 
1 indicates the first of a series of joint Navy-Curtiss 
designs. This name, changed since to simply N.C., 
has stuck and has given general satisfaction, and may 
be accepted as permanently indicating the type. 

Up to the time the design of this three-motored 
boat was undertaken by the Curtiss Company, it is 
probable no design prepared by them had been 
worked out in the amount of detail desirable for a 
design of N.C. dimensions. 

It was desired that this design should be worked 
out in complete detail so we would know as definitely 
as can be known from previous calculations what to 
expect from seaplanes built to it. This entailed con- 
trol of the Curtiss design work by the Navy Depart- 
ment, and required a thoroughness of preliminary 
design foreign to practice at that time. The way 
they adapted themselves to the unusual conditions 
under which the work was done was creditable and 
helpful in the extreme. 

There were times, of course, when things seemed to 
be progressing not any too well, when some members 
of the organization would gently complain that their 
ideas were not allowed full liberty of expression. 
They were right. No one's ideas were allowed such 
expression. No one of the Navy Department or of 
the Curtiss organization possessed sufficient experi- 
ence in the fields we were exploring to be entitled 
to such confidence, and the Navy Department was 


compelled to pursue the matter in its own way. 
With these methods the Curtiss personnel assigned 
to the job were always in loyal and earnest coopera- 
tion. At times there was a lag in effort, but this 
always results when men are being driven as hard 
as were those working on this design. For the men 
actually rubbing noses with the details no hours of 
labour were too long, and many a one of them has 
worked often all day and most of the night in clearing 
up a difficult point. 

From first to last there were many of the officers 
of the Navy Department who made important con- 
tributions to the design and construction work 
necessary in these boats. As the aeronautical 
assistant to the Chief of the Bureau of Steam En- 
gineering Rear-Admiral Griffin, Commander A. K. 
Atkins had supervision of all work related to power 
plant, gasoline supply, etc. Immediately subject 
to his division of the Bureau of Steam Engineering 
were Commander H. T. Dyer, Lieut. -Commander 
H. W. Scofield, of the Navy, and Captain N. M. 
Hall, of the Coast Guard, under whose supervision 
many details were solved. The work performed by 
these officers was of the greatest importance and 
upon its success, of course, was dependent the suc- 
cess of the boats. From the nature of the design 
as a whole, however, their work must stick largely 
to practice already common, whereas that of the 
designers of the structure must depart almost en- 
tirely from the common, to branch out into new and 
unexplored fields. If in a description of this work 
the men who did the power plant work may seem to 


be neglected, these facts, and in no degree any lesser 
importance of their work, must be held responsible. 
It happens that this new work came mainly under 
the control of the Bureau of Construction and Repair, 
since it was, in a major degree, connected with the 
structure and, as a result, fell to the supervision of 
Naval Constructor H. C. Richardson, Naval Con- 
structor J. C. Hunsaker, and myself. Since these 
are the facts it may be of interest to examine, briefly, 
the aeronautical experience brought by ourselves 
to this work of supervision of design carried on in 
territory until then unexplored in the aeronautical 
development of the United States. 

In 1914, while I was stationed in Seattle, Wash- 
ington, in connection with naval shipbuilding work 
in progress there, I became interested, with Mr. W. E. 
Boeing, of that city, now the head of the Boeing 
Airplane Company, in aeronautical matters. We 
took a few flights in a small Curtiss type flying boat 
then near that city, and Mr. Boeing became so 
enthusiastic that he decided to buy a seaplane for his 
own use, and asked my opinion regarding the type it 
should be. I made inquiries of the various manu- 
facturers of airplanes then attempting to develop 
the aeronautical industry in this country, regarding 
the seaplanes built by them. I could find none I 
was willing to recommend, and, to my astonish- 
ment, Mr. Boeing one day stated that if I would 
design a seaplane he would have two of them built 
in a boat-building shop he owned. I knew so little 
about the subject, so little of the difficulties involved, 
that I agreed to undertake it. 


To all of my acquaintances who knew anything of 
seaplanes, to everyone else of any knowledge of the 
subject on whose courtesy I could presume, I wrote 
for information, and, having collected all I could get, 
designed a seaplane with two pontoons, for a 140- 
horsepower, six-cylinder, Hall-Scott motor. In this 
seaplane there was little original: I had picked here 
and there the features of airplane design which 
seemed to me simplest and soundest, and, combining 
them, had developed a design from them. Mr. 
Boeing built two of them and, impossible as it un- 
doubtedly seems, they were remarkably successful. 
After using these two seaplanes for a year and a half 
Mr. Boeing sold them to the Government of New 

This had two results: Mr. Boeing decided to 
become a manufacturer of airplanes, and built a 
plant in Seattle for the purpose; when the naval 
aviation programme was expanded shortly before 
our entry into the war, I was placed by Admiral 
Taylor in general charge of all aircraft inspection 
and construction coming under his Bureau of the 
Navy Department. In this position I became con- 
nected with the N.C. boats when the World Drama 
brought them on the stage. 

Of Naval Constructors Richardson and Hun- 
saker the tales are quite different from my own. 

The interest of Commander H. C. Richardson in 
aeronautics dates back a number of years, and in 
several respects he is the pioneer of the Aeronautical 
Fraternity of the Navy. 

As far back as 1890 he was interested in, studied, 


and designed parachutes, and even built one of these 
devices for easing his descent from the ridge of the 
family barn. In 1895 he designed and built several 
light canoes, a type of structure definitely a fore- 
runner of the pontoons used for seaplanes. 

His transfer from the line of the Navy to the Con- 
struction Corps was partly due to his desire to take 
up the study of aeronautical design and construc- 
tion. After his graduation from the special course 
for naval constructors at the Massachusetts In- 
stitute of Technology, in 1907, his interest in such 
matters rapidly crystallized into definite forms. He 
worked on design questions; took every opportunity 
presented in those early days of aviation to make 
flights; and, in 1911, built and tested a glider at the 
Philadelphia Navy Yard. 

This glider was one of the first to be built without 
front elevators. With this glider, however, his ex- 
perience was far from encouraging. When it was 
completed, he hitched it to a motor car, took his 
place in it, and gave the word. Nothing unusual 
happened until the speed of the car was about 25 
miles per hour, and then the glider shot up in the 
air at an angle of about 45, changed its mind, and 
returned to the earth at a similar angle, but with con- 
siderably greater velocity. It is possible to mention 
this occurrence in such a cheerful style as, happily, 
in the ensuing total wreck none of Commander Rich- 
ardson's bones were broken, and he was damaged in 
a very minor degree only. 

In 1913, Commander Richardson qualified as a 
naval aviator, and since that date his services have 


been employed entirely in an aeronautical capacity. 
At the Washington Navy Yard he had a valuable 
experience with tests of airplane floats and airplane 
boat hull models in the towing tank, and laid firmly 
the foundation for his future success in the design 
of elements of this nature. There, too, in 1914, he 
designed and built a twin-engined seaplane, which, 
at that time, was the largest plane of this type in the 

From Washington he was transferred to the Air 
Station at Pensacola, Florida. There he continued 
the work, commenced in Washington, in connection 
with boat hulls, pontoons, general airplane designs, 
and devices for launching planes from shipboard, and 
was, in addition, charged with a very important pro- 
portion of the upkeep work of that training base. 
It was from Pensacola that he went to Buffalo and 
afterward to Garden City, to do his very important 
part in the designing of the N.C. boats. Later he was 
stationed in Buffalo in charge of the work of the 
Bureau of Construction and Repair at the Curtiss 
Aeroplane Company's plants in that place. 

In addition to his work in the design field, Com- 
mander Richardson has done much valuable test 
flying, both in craft of his own design and in those 
designed by others. The ability to pilot a plane 
has been of great assistance to him in the working out 
of problems with which he has been confronted. 

Naval Constructor Jerome C. Hunsaker, while 
engaged on post-graduate work at the Massachusetts 
Institute of Technology, in Boston, after his gradua- 
tion from the Naval Academy, became so much inter- 


ested in aeronautics that he was encouraged to take 
up specialization in that field; and he has continued 
in it ever since. While still a post-graduate student, 
he translated from the French the fundamental work 
of Monsieur Eiffel, "The Resistance of the Air, and 
Aviation," on which much of the progress in aero- 
nautics in this country and abroad has been based. 
This was published both in this country and in 

In 1913, shortly after completing his post-graduate 
course, he was sent abroad by the Navy Depart- 
ment to investigate and report upon the state of the 
aeronautical arts and sciences in England, France, 
and Germany. Upon his return to the United 
States he was detailed by the Navy Department, 
at the request of the Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, in Boston, to organize there a course 
for post-graduate students in aeronautical engineer- 
ing, and to install there and place in operation an 
aerodynamic laboratory. In this work he continued 
until 1916, and his influence upon aeronautical 
development in the United States while at the In- 
stitute, and since leaving it, has been of the greatest 

His contributions to the literature of aeronautics, 
his investigations and discussions of difficult prob- 
lems, have been numerous and valuable. They have 
comprised such subjects as: 

Aeroplane Design. 

Theory of Similitude of Aerial Propellers. 

Aerodynamics of the Triplane. 

Dynamical Stability of Aeroplanes. 


Reports on Wind Tunnel Experiments in Aero- 

Stable Biplane Arrangements. 

It may be of interest that the Boeing Airplane 
Company, of Seattle, designed and built a number of 
airplanes based on this last paper, and that they are 
remarkable in the ease with which they may be flown, 
and in the extent to which they can fly and control 
themselves, if the pilot desires to permit this. 

In 1916, Mr. Hunsaker was detailed for duty in 
Washington, where he was placed by Admiral Taylor 
in charge of the aeronautical activities of the Bureau 
of Construction and Repair of the Navy Depart- 
ment centring in that city. This section of the 
Bureau expanded rapidly from five to one hundred 
and fifty men, and had charge during the war of all 
matters affecting design and construction of lighter- 
than-air and heavier-than-air craft for which the 
Bureau of Construction and Repair was respon- 

Up in Buffalo, where work was soon proceeding, 
the men working on the job soon became fired with 
an ambition which was partly hope, and permitted 
themselves to day-dream a bit. Results, however 
improbable, ceased to be impossible. We could see 
flying boats doing as we had been told they must 
flying from Newfoundland to Ireland, and ready, able, 
and, as far as a flying boat can be, willing the next 
day to blow a submarine to perdition. 

We were determined that a craft should be produced 
which could do the job. This called for one weigh- 
ing 26,000 pounds. Of this amount, approximately 


12,000 pounds would be required for oil and gasoline. 
A useful load slightly in excess of 50 per cent, was 
hoped for. This is very much better than the 
Handley-Page night bomber, and represented opti- 
mism of a high order. With the decreasing con- 
sumption of gasoline as the weight fell off greater 
radius per unit consumption of gasoline could be ob- 
tained, and it was estimated that it would be possible 
to cover with this boat the 1,933 miles involved 
without placing any reliance upon the wind for as- 
sistance. Accordingly, the dimensions were laid out 
on this basis. 

We estimated a load of eight pounds per square 
foot, which would require a wing area of 3,250 square 
feet. A wing chord of fourteen feet was chosen; 
and other general dimensions of the craft were de- 
cided upon as follows: 

Upper wing span 140 feet 
Lower wing span 110 feet 
Length, over all 82 feet 

With these dimensions, the preliminary details were 
worked out. 

When this preliminary design was about half com- 
pleted, Naval Constructor H. C. Richardson arrived 
from the Naval Air Station at Pensacola for tem- 
porary duty in connection with this work. He ex- 
pressed immediate doubts of the possibility of accom- 
plishing the result aimed at with the horsepower to 
be employed, but the design was proceeded with. 
In a week or ten days more it was far enough 
advanced to make possible the estimates of per- 


formance. Naval Constructor Hunsaker came up 
from Washington, bringing with him all the latest 
coefficients of resistance, just received from the Na- 
tional Physical Laboratory of Great Britain, and we 
fell to work on the estimates. 

Richardson was right! The result was most dis- 
appointing. Instead of a cruising radius of 1,933 
miles, necessary for flight from Newfoundland to 
Ireland, there was indicated one of 1,300 only, 
barely sufficient for a flight to the Azores. The resist- 
ance of the seaplane would be so great that its speed 
and consequent radius of flight would be small. Fur- 
ther estimates indicated that we could do quite as 
well with a smaller boat, and that the "all-the- 
way-across" flight was probably impracticable with 
three "direct-drive" Liberty engines. 

In the carrying of this design as far as it had gone 
there had already been encountered many of the 
difficulties expected from work of this nature under- 
taken with so little information and so little previous 
experience. It appeared most undesirable to em- 
bark on a design of even greater dimensions than the 
one undertaken, in which even the uncertainties 
with which we were being confronted were of such 
great proportions. To a certain extent we were 
whipped and had to admit it. Though I was respon- 
sible for the insistence which had caused us to spend 
several weeks chasing an impossibility, Richardson 
and Hunsaker generously shared with me in the down- 
fall. To Washington we went, and told Admiral 
Taylor of our plight. 

Doubtless, the Admiral was expecting us, had won- 


dered, perhaps, what had kept us away so long, and 
was ready with his answer. He relieved us vastly 
by letting us off with a problem only half again as 
difficult as any one had yet been able to answer. 
"Build the smaller design, and we'll go by way of the 
Azores." With this smaller design, it seemed practi- 
cable to make a flight to the Azores, and refuelling 
there, to continue the flight to Portugal, one of our 
allies. And so it was necessary to dismiss the idea 
of a Newfoundland-to-ireland flight, except on the 
basis of a stop in mid-ocean for refuelling from a ship. 

We had in sight, at that time, no engine of suf- 
ficient power so constructed as to permit of a smaller 
number of revolutions of the propeller than were 
given by the engine itself. An engine of this type 
is referred to briefly as a "geared-down" engine. 
Over the other type, referred to as a "direct-drive" 
engine, it has, throughout the greater portion of the 
flying range of an airplane, a marked advantage. 
We realized that geared-down engines, of similar 
power to the direct-drive engines we were contem- 
plating using, would improve greatly the perform- 
ance of the design being produced, but it appeared 
unlikely that any would be available soon enough for 
our needs and we could not consider them at all. 

In these few weeks we had been forced to accept 
the practical certainty that the target aimed at by 
us was too distant for us to hit. We had to admit, 
very reluctantly, that, so far as our knowledge could 
carry us, the art of airplane design had not yet 
reached a point permitting us to accomplish com- 
pletely the task set. With the experience we have 


gained since then, and the knowledge we have ac- 
quired from the design produced, we could have 
adopted certain fairly simple modifications of the first 
design, which would have added very materially to 
its flight radius, and might even have made it prac- 
ticable for it to accomplish an " all-the-way-across" 
flight. This would have been, briefly, the mainte- 
nance of the size as originally decided upon, and the 
addition of one more engine. The uncertainties 
were so considerable, however, and the amount of 
weight we had decided upon as capable of being 
carried by each square foot of wing surface was al- 
ready so far beyond contemporary practice, that 
it did not seem practicable, from such a modifica- 
tion, to accomplish the object aimed at. As will 
be seen later, the addition of another engine was the 
very modification which was adopted finally for 
increasing the flight radius of these craft. From 
the resulting improvement, with a wing loading 
enormously increased beyond anything which had 
been experienced when this design was started, it 
seems quite certain that, with the greater wing area 
provided in the original tentative design, even better 
results would have been obtained had it been con- 
sidered practicable to install an additional engine, 
and to continue the design on the basis of the dimen- 
sions originally laid down. 

With enthusiasms somewhat dulled, for the time 
being, by our unexpected setback, we again went to 
work to produce the details for a flying boat of a total 
weight of 22,000 pounds and an estimated flight 
radius of at least 1,300 miles. 


We may now survey the general dimensions of the 
design resulting from the labours just described : 

Wing span, upper 126 feet 
Lower wing 94 feet 

Wing chord 12 feet 

Gap between wings 13 feet 6 inches at centre 

12 feet at outer wing struts 
Over all length 67 feet 3f inches 

Length of boat hull 45 feet 9 inches 
Beam of " " 10 feet 

Wing area 2,380 square feet 

Weight, empty 11,500 pounds 
Weight, full load 22,000 
Engine power 1,000 horsepower 



A AIRPLANE looks like a very simple thing; 
but do not be misled by looks, it isn't! If 
I tried to tell you how complicated it really 
is, and to describe the calculating and designing of each 
portion, you would drop this book very quickly, and in 
no friendly spirit. Things one would bother about 
very little in other types of construction, in airplanes 
make the difference between flying and not flying. 

Take weight, for example. In a house, or a ship, 
or a motor car, weight is important, but nobody 
wastes sleep over a few pounds here and there. But 
in an airplane it is so important to avoid all unnec- 
essary weight that designers try and try again, de- 
sign and re-design, test this and that, investigate 
every practicable material they can think of, until 
every part of the plane is as light as it can possibly 
be for the strength required. It was weight which 
kept man from flying for so many centuries; and until 
he learned to build engines which weighed only a few 
pounds per horsepower, and the rest of the structure 
in harmony, he was tied down to the earth. 



When the Wrights first started their experiments 
with flight they used gliders, very lightly built, for 
which the motive power was the force of gravity, 
as they would fly these gliders from low hills, and 
really coast down the air. But when they began 
to think about power-driven flight they had to con- 
sider the weight of the engine, and then much more 
real trouble began. When they attempted to secure 
an engine to fly with, of a weight of not more than 
20 pounds per horsepower, they were told by gaso- 
line engine manufacturers that their order was un- 
fillable. It was not unfillable, but they had to be- 
come gasoline engine designers and manufacturers, 
and fill it themselves. Two poor, young bicycle 
mechanics solved, first of all, the principles of flight 
on which scientists had worked for centuries, and 
then, invading the entirely strange field of gasoline 
engineering, designed and built, on the first trial, 
the lightest engine for its power the world had known. 
In all records of man's superhuman accomplish- 
ments there is none any greater. 

The first power-driven airplane in which man flew 
weighed about 45 pounds per horsepower. It had 
a speed of little more than 30 miles per hour. To-day 
there are airplanes which weigh not over 6j pounds 
per engine horsepower, and which have a speed of 
160 miles per hour. This has been made possible 
by a reduction in the weight of airplane engines from 
the 12 to 14 pounds per horsepower of the first 
Wright engine to the If pounds per horsepower of 
the Hispano Suiza, and the 2 pounds per horsepower 
of the Liberty engine of the present day. Design 




1 Skid Fins 

2 Compression Struts 

3 Wing Ribs 

4 Gravity Tank 

5 Aileron Control Horns 

6 Ailerons 

7 Upper Forward Wing Beam 

8 Upper Rear Wing Beam 

9 Lower Forward Wing Beam 
10 Lower Rear Wing Beam 
11 King Posts 
IS Wing Tip Pontoons 
13 Wing Panel Strut 
14 Outer Nacelle 
15 Pusher Propeller 
16 Outriggers for Tail Sup- 

17 Upper Stabilizer (horizon- 

18 Upper Elevator 

19 Lower Stabilizer (horizon- 

20 Lower Elevator * 

21 Balanced Rudder 

22 Vertical Stabilizer 

23 Tail Boom 

24 Pilots* Cockpit 

25 Hatchway, Engineer's 

26 Aileron Balancing Section 
27 Elevator Balancing Sec- 
28 Access Tunnel 


and construction details of the planes themselves 
have, of course, been refined, but these followed as 
a natural consequence of the reduction in engine 
weights and of the increase in engine powers. 

Nothing could be clearer than the fact that a cer- 
tain amount of power can drive a weight of 6j pounds 
through the air much more rapidly than it can drive 
a weight of 45 pounds; and nothing could be more 
certain than the fact that future development must 
depend upon a further reduction in weight per horse- 
power, or that from such a reduction will come 
greater speeds. 

The weight per horsepower of a fully loaded N.C. 
boat, with a transatlantic flight engine installation, 
is about 17| pounds; the speed with this full load is 
about 93 miles per hour. 

Success in airplane design and construction is in 
such a superlative degree the reward of an untiring 
consideration of weight, that an entire chapter de- 
voted to the explanation of the weights of the N.C. 
boats would not be wasted. Bitter, indeed, will be 
the experience of the designer who allows any other 
element of design to assume in his mind an aspect of 
more importance. The soldier bound for the front 
may do as all soldiers entering their first campaign 
inevitably do, load himself up with non-essentials, 
with items chosen without due regard to weight, and 
no great harm will follow. As the weights on the 
first long marches become irksome, he can discard 
unnecessary items one by one, to be left at the last 
with the irreducible kit of necessities of the veteran. 
Designed into or built into the structure of an air- 


plane the unnecessary or excess weight is there for- 
ever, and its elimination entails a new design. 

With all of these things regarding weight in mind, 
we figured and designed the parts of the N.C. boats. 
We considered aluminum, and high- tensile steels, 
and woods of various kinds, but generally we found 
that when all the points had been considered, good, 
old reliable spruce was the material adopted for large 
members. For fittings, of course, steels were used; 
for tanks, aluminum; for pipes in the gasoline system, 
copper, but the main structure was of spruce. It was 
not always absolutely the lightest thing we could 
have used, but it was generally the most satis- 
factory. Aluminum would have been a little lighter, 
but aluminum deteriorates very badly in the presence 
of salt water, and, of course, we could not take any 
chances on such a thing in strength members. The 
framing of German Zeppelins is built of aluminum, 
and on several shot down in England and France 
marked deterioration has been found. The Ger- 
mans have been using aluminum for such purposes 
for many years and have not yet learned how to 
prevent this action, so we decided to take no chances 
with it. For a few things, like long wing struts, high- 
tensile steel worked out lighter for equal strength, 
but it would have been so thin as to have no local 
strength. When you see an N.C. boat flying through 
the air, if you ever do, it is a portion of the spruce 
forests of Maine or of Oregon out for a joy ride. 

Then resistance has to be considered. In our ordi- 
nary daily lives we do not give much attention to 
the resistance the air opposes to passage through it. 


Even those of us who move fastest do not move fast 
enough to have it make any appreciable difference. 
In the motor cars in which we ride we give it little 
heed, and only the very high-speed cars used for 
racing purposes take it into consideration and adopt 
shapes with a reduction in resistance directly in 
mind. In airplanes, however, resistance is the thing 
most fought against. It is even more important, 
when high speed is to be considered, than weight, 
as the effect of a bit of unnecessary resistance is 
greater than that of a bit of unnecessary weight. 
This comes from the fact that resistance to passage 
through the air increases with the square of the speed. 
The resistance at 50 miles an hour is only one fourth 
that at 100 miles an hour. 

An airplane designer tries to keep down resistance 
by designing the members of the airplane exposed to 
the air of such shapes that they will have as little re- 
sistance as possible. One may easily, if interested, try 
a few experiments bearing on this subject. If a 
block of wood is held stationary in a stream of water, 
the effect upon the moving water is shown very 
clearly by the lines which it assumes around the 
sides of, in front of, and behind the block. It will 
also be seen that the effect upon the flowing water 
depends upon the velocity of flow, and that the 
strength required to hold the block stationary in- 
creases rapidly with an increase in velocity. Now, 
by varying the shape of the block, keeping the ve- 
locity of flow constant, changes may be produced in 
the effect upon the stream. Experiments have 
shown that by a careful choice of the shape of the 


block, although its width be kept the same, the dis- 
turbance of the stream may be reduced to the point 
where the effect is hardly visible, and where the 
strength required to hold it in position is small. 

If the body be completely submerged in the 
water, the flow will take place above the body as well 
as at the sides and below. Here again, by the care- 
ful choice of the shape of the submerged body, the 
disturbance produced in the flowing water may be 
reduced to the point where it is hardly visible. 

A body suspended in a flowing stream of air affects 
the air in exactly the same way as the body sub- 
merged in water affects the water. To reduce the 
effect to a minimum, methods similar to those ex- 
plained above must be followed, and when minimum 
resistance is obtained, the body is said to be of 
"streamline" form. The more nearly the form be- 
comes a perfect streamline form the smaller the re- 
sistance becomes. Were it possible to develop a 
perfect streamline form this resistance would be zero, 
and there would be no pressure against the body. 

The flow of the air around this suspended body will 
depend upon the shape of the body. It is quite prob- 
able that it has often been noted while in a motor 
car that the wind blows on the back of the head in- 
stead of on the face. This is because the air in 
striking the wind shield is deflected upward over the 
head, but eddies are produced at a point just back 
of the head, giving the effect mentioned above. 
By a slight change in the height of the wind shield, 
or in the position of the wind shield with respect to 
the seat, this effect may be entirely overcome. 



The accompanying sketches stow in a visual form 
the effect on the air stream of the change in shape of 
the body suspended in the stream. 

Consideration must also be given to the wing sec- 
tions, for it is on the wing section that the lifting power 
of the wings depends. Wing sections are of many 
and of peculiar shapes. They have not developed 



accidentally, but from the fact that people who have 
experimented with them have, little by little, found 
the shapes that give the best results. Some wing 
sections are best for high speed, some are best for 
low speed; some for a heavily loaded, and some for a 
lightly loaded, plane; and if the average individual, 
who is not interested in airplane design except in a 
general, sketchy way, were to try to find out all a 
designer has to consider before he decides upon the 
wing section for his airplane, it would make him diz- 
zier than a flight in the plane itself. 

Here again it is necessary to mention the Wright 
brothers. The simplest conversation regarding the 


development of flight nearly always involves some 
mention of the Wright brothers, for they seem to 
have overlooked very little. It was they who first 
put the examination of airplane wing sections on a 
sound basis. In order to fly with the great handicap 
they experienced from their high engine weights 
they had to do this, for it was necessary for them to 
use a wing section from which they could get the 
very greatest amount of lift at the slow speeds at 
which they would be able to fly. 

To find these things out they developed the wind 
tunnel. This is a device of a generally circular sec- 
tion through which air is drawn by means of a fan. 
In the stream of air created small models of the wings 
considered were tested, and by means of special 
scales the lifting effects were determined. As this 
lift increases, just as resistance does, with the square 
of the speed, it is easy to determine from such tests 
on small models, even with moderate speeds of the 
air stream passing through the tunnel, just what may 
be expected of the full-sized wings. 

To-day there are wind tunnels large enough to 
take models of a span of more than seven feet, in 
which an air speed of more than a hundred miles per 
hour can be developed, but the Wright brothers could 
afford nothing of such magnitude. Their finances 
were inadequate, and their wind tunnel was small, 
and, perhaps, inefficient, but, nevertheless, their 
work was remarkably exact, and the methods de- 
veloped by them are those now in use the world over. 
Wherever one turns in his examination of the achieve- 
ments of these two remarkable men he is confronted 


by development work of astounding merit, and must 
conclude that their success was that of sheer, hard- 
working genius, unrelieved by any contribution of 
luck whatsoever. 

The wind tunnel developed by the Wright broth- 
ers, primarily for the measurement of the lifting 
effect of airplane wings, is now employed for numer- 
ous purposes. In it are treated the resistances of dif- 
ferent forms; models of complete airplanes are tested 
out in advance of building the large planes, and com- 
plete data may be secured of the performance to be 
expected of the large plane before any considerable 
amount is spent on it; and, most important of all, it 
may be definitely determined whether the large plane 
will be a safe one in which to fly, so that no brave 
lives need be sacrificed unnecessarily in taking into the 
air airplanes which have no business being there. 

Never losing sight for an instant of the things we 
have just been considering, it was necessary for us to 
proceed with the design work. We could not pro- 
duce a boat capable of flying all the way across, and 
of doing the necessary things to German submarines 
after they got there, so it was our task to do the best 
we could, and at it we went. 

The wing section chosen by us for the N.C. boats 
was one developed by the British at their Royal 
Aircraft Factory in England, and named by them 
the R.A.F.6. This is a very excellent wing section, 
particularly suitable for load-carrying airplanes of 
moderate speeds. It is deep, so it can contain the 
large wing beams heavily loaded airplanes require, 
and is of as simple a form as any. 



For several months 20 to 25 draftsmen were con- 
stantly employed working out and drawing the details, 
and there were very few solutions of the different 
problems of structural details we did not try. In 
connection with the wing ribs, the wing posts or 
struts, the tail booms, the compression struts, the 
wing beams, dozens of designs were sketched, cal- 


culated, and in many cases built and tested. Ounces 
were fought for in the attempt to save weight as 
fiercely as if they were ounces of gold. The fever 
of invention seized everyone, and men would ap- 
pear in the mornings with new designs they had 
thought up as they lay in bed. 

Some rather grotesque things were taken seriously, 
and several times designs were constructed and 
tested which in any other condition than the one of 
intense devotion to the saving of weight and resist- 
ance in which we then were we would have recog- 
nized at once as impracticable. 

Numerous wing ribs were built and tested, each 
one a little stronger and a little lighter, until, finally, 
we got one weighing less than two pounds which 
supported a distributed load of 600 pounds for 24 
hours without being permanently deformed. On a 
comparative basis a man of 160 pounds could hold 
up 48,000 pounds. 

In our designs of compression struts for the wings 
we were particularly fluent. Something was wrong 
with the day on which two or three were not thought 
of. Finally one was produced seven feet long, 
weighing 3| pounds and capable of supporting ver- 
tically a weight of 7,000 pounds. This strut was a 
simple, hollow, tapering strut of square section. Be- 
fore it, however, many less successful ones had gone 
through the mill. 

Almost every day, one or another of the many men 
working on the design of this boat would contribute 
to the designs of compression struts a new one of 
boasted qualities, and it would be patiently de- 


tailed, and calculated, and, occasionally, built and 
tested. From the first I had advocated the com- 
pression strut of square section, and had taken the 
attitude that it would be impracticable to develop 
one which would be more satisfactory from consider- 
ation of strength, lightness, and ease of manu- 
facture. This, by the way, was a conclusion arrived 
at by Mr. Handley-Page, and we had already found 
how sound several of his conclusions had been. 
In common with the other persons working on this 
design, however, I suffered from the fever of inven- 
tion, and produced one day a strut that all referred 
to as "the fish pole." In this strut were intended to 
be combined ease of manufacture, strength, and the 
absolute minimum of weight. When two of these 
were brought to test, however, instead of supporting 
the 7,000 pounds it was confidently expected they 
would be capable of, they assumed, when the weights 
placed upon them were still less than 1,000 pounds, 
remarkable postures, proving, beyond a doubt, that 
the name with which they had been christened 
was well deserved. Upon this, we all discovered, 
as we would have sooner done had each one not been 
blinded by the extent of his own inventive fervour, 
that in this strut no torsional strength of any amount 
had been provided. The fact was that any load 
off-centre by the slightest degree whatsoever caused 
torsional stresses against which no resisting ability 
had been provided, and when deflection once com- 
menced it continued in a most remarkable and 
amusing fashion. The provision of torsional strength 
would have involved such manufacturing complexity 


as to make this type of compression strut impracti- 
cable, and it was, to the amusement of all concerned, 
laid on the shelf. 



Then appeared Commander Richardson with his 
"world beater." Like "the fish pole," this strut 
should have told on itself immediately, but two of 
them were built and tested. Having had my ex- 
perience, and having returned to my advocacy of 
the strut of square section against the field I pointed 


out, not without some decree of sarcasm, that any 
one should be able to see that the material in Com- 
mander Richardson's strut was incorrectly disposed, 
and that this strut would inevitably be heavier for 
corresponding strength than the simpler strut of 
square section. Pained by my jibes at this child of 
his inventive faculties, and driven by them into a 
reckless course he probably would not have other- 
wise adopted, he took the typical American method 
of settling an argument by betting on his judgment. 
Four bets were made and duly recorded. The stake 
in each case was an ice cream soda. First, Com- 
mander Richardson bet me that his strut would be 
lighter per pound supported than the one advocated 
by me. Second, I bet Commander Richardson that 
without any relation to the weight of the two 
struts, the one advocated by myself would support 
more weight than the one advocated by himself. 
Third, in order that Naval Constructor Hunsaker 
might have some interest in the proceedings, I also 
made in his behalf, and with the same stakes, bets 
similar to those made by myself. As any one with 
the remotest nodding acquaintance with that math- 
ematical conception known as "The Moment of 
Inertia" will appreciate, Commander Richardson 
forfeited four 24 -karat ice cream sodas. At the 
same time, also, it was decided to adopt the strut 
of square section, and to proceed no farther with 
experiments being made. 

It must be recorded that we found, when inventive- 
ness had been exhausted, and decisions had been 
made, the wing beams, the ribs, the wing struts, and 


the compression struts to be practically identical with 
those employed by Mr. Handley-Page in his bombers. 
We could have accepted those at first and saved much 
work, but were hopeful of improving on them, and 
in some minor degrees did improve on them. As a 
result, we duplicated much of the work most probably 
done by Mr. Handley-Page before us in arriving at 
his excellent conclusions. 

In the design of the very numerous fittings of 
metal, each one special to itself and requiring most 
careful strength calculations, much time, work, and 
ingenuity were involved. In this Commander Rich- 
ardson's experience was of considerable value. 

The system of wires is not so straightforward as it 
looks. For all of these wires exposed to the air we 
arranged streamline covers of wood. These stream- 
line covers have a much less violent effect on the 
air than the round wires, and, though the several 
hundred feet required weigh many pounds, reduce 
the resistance of these wires to such an extent as to 
increase the high speed by three to five miles per 

The areas of the different surfaces, the wings, the 
stabilizers, the ailerons, the elevators, the vertical 
stabilizers, the non-skid fins, were determined by 
comparisons with other successful airplanes, and by 
proportioning the auxiliary surfaces to the area of the 

The N.C. machine is of the flying boat type. 
The boat hull on which the wings are mounted, 
and from which the rest of the structure is sup- 
ported, carries the gasoline tanks, the crew, and 


many of the weights connected with the ship. It 
must be very light yet enormously strong. Of the 
total weight of the flying boat only about one tenth 
could be claimed by the boat hull. On it depends the 
ability of the plane to get off the water with large 
loads, its ability to land on the water without 
injury, and to rest upon the water with the crew in 
security and safety. Of all the portions of the struc- 
ture it is the most important and the one most dif- 
ficult to design. Upon Commander Richardson was 
thrown the burden of this design. If any one should 
be capable of doing it successfully it should be he, 
as he had specialized in connection with seaplane 
floats and flying boat hull designs, and was probably 
better posted regarding the subject than any one 
else in the world. 

In the early days of the boat hull problems, Com- 
mander Richardson and Mr. Gilmore of the Curtiss 
Company worked together on them. They produced 
a design based partly on Commander Richardson's 
experience and partly on that of Mr. Gilmore, as 
embodied in a flying boat called "the flying life 
boat" recently constructed by the Curtiss Company. 
In this boat, too, was a trifle of the design found in 
the latest of the flying boats being built by the Cur- 
tiss Company, largely according to the ideas of Com- 
mander Porte of the Royal Naval Air Service of 
Great Britain. To this design a small scale model 
was built. 

When tested in the Washington Navy Yard tow- 
ing tank, however, this model gave very poor results. 
Commander Richardson thereupon changed it radi- 


cally in several respects, retested it, and presently 
came back to Buffalo with the lines of the boat hull 
afterward built for the N.C. boats, and found to be 

In working out the simple and sturdy details of 
construction Commander Richardson and Mr. Gil- 
more cooperated, and with the happiest results. 
Months afterward, as he will tell you in his account 
of the attempted transatlantic flight of the N.C. 3, 
Commander Richardson's life depended for many 
hours on the integrity of the boat hull, on the correct- 
ness of the assumption of strength made when he had 
worked on it, on its ability to withstand the fierce 
onslaught of stormy seas; and it brought him and his 
four companions back to port in safety. 

To Commander Richardson was given, also, the 
responsibility of designing the wing tip floats which 
prevent the ends of the wings from dragging in the 
water and the seaplane from upsetting. In the ex- 
periences of the N.C S 9 of which you will later read, 
you will find mention of these floats. You may 
judge for yourself of their success. 

Of the features of the N.C. boats the two radical 
ones are the boat hull and the tail. Of the hull we 
have just heard. Of the tail little description other 
than sketches of the different arrangements of tail and 
of tail supports, shown in the next chapter, seems nec- 
essary. Many combinations were investigated and it 
may, of course, be questioned whether we got the best. 
We did do this, however, we got one which, through 
wind and weather, stayed where it belonged, content 
to be always last provided it got there eventually. 


Showing Liberty engine and radiator, as used on the N.C. 3 and N.C. 4 


Looking aft toward the instrument board and the pilots' control arrangements 

International Film Service 


Lieut-Commander Bellinger is adjusting the navigating instruments. 
Below may be seen the rockets used for night signalling 


The N.C. boats were designed for a power plant 
of three Liberty engines driving tractor propellers, 
and the N.C. 1 was constructed in accordance with 
this design. Of the Liberty engine it should not be 
necessary to include any description. Few things 
have been better advertised, and its origin and 
development are familiar and threadbare tales. 
Combined with this engine installation as a part of 
the power plant was the entire oil, gasoline, and 
engine control system. 

One very radical departure, at least, from previous 
American practice was introduced in working out the 
power plant installation. Aluminum was employed 
more extensively than on any plane of our experience, 
and probably more extensively than on any other air- 
planes built as yet. The gasoline tanks, the lubri- 
cating oil tanks, and much of the gasoline distribution 
system were designed of this material. During 
construction and tests some of the piping and valves 
of the distribution system were changed to copper or 
to brass, and the gravity tank for gasoline feed was 
changed to a lead-covered steel plate, known- as 
tern plate; but elsewhere aluminum has been re- 
tained, and has been found very satisfactory. The 
saving of weight was great, amounting to several 
hundred pounds, and it is most doubtful whether 
these craft would have been successful if aluminum 
had not been employed. 

Gasoline is fed to the engines through a gravity 
tank set in the upper wing directly over the centre- 
line of the boat, which is kept constantly full by 
two wind-driven propeller pumps. Through a very 


complete system of piping these pumps can draw 
from any or all of the nine 200-gallon gasoline tanks. 
Any one of these tanks can be shut off from all the 
others so that gasoline leakage, in the event of injury or 
failure of a tank, can be limited to the tank affected. 
Overflow from the gravity tank passes through a sight 
chamber with front and back glass sides, mounted 
just below the deck of the boat hull, and any failure 
of the wind-driven gasoline pumps to deliver gasoline 
can be instantly detected by the engineer. In the 
event of such failure a hand pump connected to the 
gasoline manifold system is available in the engineer's 

Throughout, except for the large use of aluminum, 
the power plant installation is straightforward and in 
accordance with the usual best practice. 

As has already been pointed out, we were unfor- 
tunate in having to employ direct-drive engines 
because no suitable geared-down engines were avail- 

Except in a few elements of the structure where 
special conditions held, every portion of these planes 
was designed for four times the strength required for 
support of the loads of normal flight. This margin 
of strength is designated in engineering structures 
as the "Factor of Safety." It had been customary 
in airplanes to make it at least six and often seven or 
more. Our decision to cut it down so radically was 
based on the certainty that in planes as large as the 
N.C's there would be no erratic or "stunt" flying, 
and none of the unusual strains produced by such 
flying. By this reduction in the factor of safety we 


were enabled, of course, to reduce the sizes of struc- 
tural members and to save much weight. 

The most important of the constructional elements 
for which a factor greater than four was employed 
were the flying wires. These were given a factor of 
six, and this factor was distributed to three wires. 
These planes were for war purposes, and subject to 
attack by hostile fighting planes, and, in the event 
of the cutting, by a bullet, of any one of the numerous 
flying wires, would be in a dangerous condition if the 
factor were only four divided among two wires. As 
soon as peace came, one of the flying wires was re- 
moved, so in the N.C. boats, when flying at designed 
load, there was, almost throughout, a factor of safety 
of four. 





IN DECEMBER, 1917, the Curtiss Engineering 
organization moved from Buffalo to their new 
j plant near Garden City, Long Island, New 
York. By agreement with me this move was so 
made as to involve almost no delay in the work on 
the N.C. boats. Work stopped one afternoon in 
Buffalo; the Curtiss engineers and draftsmen went 
aboard special Pullman cars that night, and were in 
Garden City the following morning. Living arrange- 
ments had already been made for them, and most of 
them were at work again that day. 

This move to the more kindly climate of Long 
Island was a welcome one to the Curtiss Engineering 
organization. After it, the work on the N.C's 
progressed unbrokenly for many months. For 
the Curtiss Company this work was under Mr. W. L. 
Gilmore, assisted by Mr. J. A. Christen. The prog- 
ress, however, was less rapid than I had hoped, and 
its slowness contained in it many disappointments. 
I have no doubt that more was expected by us than 
could be accomplished in work of this nature, and my 
urgings for increased effort and for increased design 
output seemed to me, often, as not entirely unfruitful. 



I have had sufficient experience with work of this 
nature to know that it is almost impossible to hurry 
it, and that the men who do the best work of this 
kind cannot be driven. The output of work ap- 
peared not overgreat, and there have been times 
when I feared the design would never be completed. 

Shortly after the move to Garden City, Naval 
Constructor Richardson returned to Pensacola. All 
the main elements of the design had been formulated, 
and the general nature of smaller details had been 
decided upon. There remained for completion 
the innumerable small details of design, requiring 
the ceaseless plug, plug, of the draftsmen detailed to 
cover the work, and the careful and observant over- 
sight of the engineers in charge of the preparation, of 
these plans. 

Regarding a new design of such dimensions and 
of such unusual features it must be expected that 
much doubt would exist. It is probable that little 
confidence was felt in the work being done by per- 
sons cognizant of it but not themselves engaged upon 
it. It was no uncommon thing, as the design ap- 
proached completion and the construction of certain 
elements were taken in hand, to hear frankly ex- 
pressed criticisms of the whole design or of specific 
features of it. This, not unnaturally, had a dis- 
turbing effect upon those connected with it whose 
fortunes were to some extent, and whose hopes and 
expectations were completely, tied up in it. After 
a bit, when a boat hull being built by the Curtiss 
Company at Garden City was sufficiently completed 
to attract attention, it was made the subject of 


more than one jest, and served to point the moral 
of more than one gloomy forecast. 

As the first one of these flying craft approached 
completion, these forecasts became, if anything, 
gloomier, and few could be found who would speak 
with enthusiasm of the probable outcome. Of the 
boat hull, in particular, much doubt was felt. Its 
design, compared to previous flying boat hull de- 
signs, was radical in the extreme. Its width, com- 
pared to the amount of load to be carried, was small, 
and on more than one occasion my nights had been 
disturbed by the recollection of the confident fore- 
casts of men of experience that it would never get 
off the water. Though I never have discussed this 
matter with Mr. Curtiss, and so cannot quote him, 
I feel that he was among the number who doubted 
the performance anticipated from this boat hull. 
I base this belief on the fact that, without securing 
my approval, he had arranged to have incorporated 
in the boat hull built at his plant a structural fea- 
ture which would make possible the addition of side 
fins for the increase of the bottom or the planing 
surface. These fins, as can be seen from Curtiss 
flying boat photographs in Chapter II, had been an 
inherent feature of Curtiss flying boats almost since 
the first. They had, in fact, come to be considered 
as indispensable, and the design of a boat hull with- 
out these features, or without the proportion of plan- 
ing surface previously considered necessary, seemed 
almost heretical. 

Commander Porte of the Royal Navy, the great- 
est foreign authority on the subject of flying boats 


and flying boat hulls, had an opportunity of examin- 
ing the boat hull for the N.C. 1. He discreetly 
refused to commit himself, merely stating: "It is 
very interesting." However, in England, I later 
heard from various sources doubts of this boat hull, 
and of the design in general, which could hardly 
have been inspired by any one else than the Com- 
mander himself, and it is fairly safe to conclude from 
these remarks, and from the probable source of their 
inspiration, that he, too, was, not unnaturally, among 
the doubters. There can be no question that the 
design had the appearance of being a radical one. 
The boat hull, in particular, had so widely departed 
from previous practice that it is not surprising that 
incredulity should have resulted. The boat hull 
suggested by the Curtiss Company had possessed 
the general appearance, looked at from the side, of 
the one constructed, but the ideas of this company 
regarding the dimensions of this boat hull and, in 
particular, the area and distribution of the planing 
surface, were fundamentally different from the ideas 
embodied in the design itself. 

In July, 1918, there visited this country a British 
Aviation Commission. The principal technical mem- 
ber of this commission was Colonel Sempill, a most 
talented officer, formerly of the Royal Navy. This 
commission was given the fullest possible opportun- 
ity for examination into all phases of our aircraft 
efforts, and at Garden City was shown the N.C. 1, 
at that time far enough advanced in construction to 
afford some fair idea as to what it might look like 
finally. Colonel SempilPs opinion of the craft was 


briefly summarized in his report regarding American 
activities, and was as follows : 

"The hull of this machine was examined, and is 
the design of a naval constructor. The machine 
is impossible, and is not likely to be of any use what- 


It happens that in airplane design, the thing which 
does not look well is very likely to be unsound. It 
does not follow, however, that the design which 
looks unusual is also unsound. In judging the N.C's, 
numerous people have been led astray by the fact 
that the design is unusual, have forgotten that dif- 
ferent problems must be solved in different ways, 
and have condemned the design without going to the 
trouble of inquiring into its different features and the 
reasons therefor. 

At the time of the move to Garden City, with 
headquarters in Buffalo, I had charge for the Bureau 
of Construction and Repair of all aeronautical work 
at factories, with the exception of that at the Naval 
Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia. With more than a 
dozen branch offices scattered about the country, 
from Akron, Ohio, east to Marblehead, Mass., requir- 
ing frequent visits, most of my nights were spent in 
Pullman cars, and my visits to Garden City were not 
quite so frequent as I would have desired. Always 
one day of the week, however, was spent there; oc- 
casionally it was possible to work in two days there. 
Everything was of surpassing importance, for every- 
thing we were doing was for counter-submarine 
work, but the N.C. design seemed always just a little 
more important than anything else, and as requiring 


a bit more personal attention and personal shove, and, 
accordingly, it was to Garden City I went oftener 
than to any other place. 

My visits could not have been very welcome. I 
was always disappointed by less progress than I had 
expected, and was, perhaps, a complaining visitor. 
The pressure under which this work was done never 
relaxed until the three boats left Rockaway Beach 
for the transatlantic flight. The fact that the men 
of the Navy and of the Curtiss Company who were 
connected with the designing and building of these 
boats came through the experience in fair shape is 
testimony to the endurance of the human animal. 

One thing we discovered was that everyone under- 
estimated the time required for the design work, 
and that we were certain to be several months longer 
in completing the first boat than we had anticipated. 

There have been many inquiries as to the specific 
control of the design of these great flying boats. 
Time and time again I have been asked: "Well, now, 
who did design the N.C. boats?", and I have replied, 
"That is impossible to answer. They were designed 
by many people." It may, then, be explained in 
more detail what is meant by this. 

The final supervision over structural design details 
was, of course, retained by the Bureau of Construction 
and Repair. This meant, ordinarily, Naval Con- 
structor Hunsaker. In the event, however, of a mat- 
ter of importance regarding which his opinions might 
have been divergent from those of Naval Constructor 
Richardson and myself, the decision would have 
rested with Admiral Taylor. It may be said, how- 


ever, there was not carried to the Admiral a single 
difference of design opinion of this nature for his 
final decision. In no case were we unable to reach 
a harmonious conclusion. In few cases, and in few 
instances, in fact, was it even necessary to refer to 
the Bureau for decisions on points concerning which 
any considerable differences of opinion existed among 
the persons working immediately in connection with 
the design. In many cases, however, where various 
solutions of a problem could be adopted, these solu- 
tions were thoroughly considered by those actively 
engaged on the design, and then Naval Constructor 
Hunsaker was called in for the final discussion at which 
the decision was made as to the solution to be chosen. 
Details of the design of the power plant installa- 
tion required the approval of the Bureau of Steam 
Engineering. Ordinarily, this meant the approval 
of Commander A. K. Atkins who was the head of the 
aeronautical division of that Bureau. On occasions, 
as necessity developed, Commander Atkins, or one 
of his immediate assistants at the Bureau, would 
visit the scene of actual work, for conference with 
the Curtiss representatives, or with those of Con- 
struction and Repair, and for decisions of power 
plant matters. In Buffalo, during the time work 
was carried on there, Lieut.-Commander H. W. 
Scofield supervised the work for Steam Engineering 
and in Garden City, after the transfer of the work 
there, it was under the supervision of Captain N. B. 
Hall of the Coast Guard, Aeronautical Inspector 
in the New York district for the Bureau of Steam 


At the plants of the Curtiss Company, the super- 
vision of the work of design for the Bureau of Con- 
struction and Repair was under myself. A few of the 
features were contributed by myself. In general, 
however, I exercised, in connection with this design, 
the same type of supervision the head of an architec- 
tural firm would exercise over the numerous designs 
being worked up by the personnel of his firm, with 
the exception that final decisions could always be 
made by the Bureau of Construction and Repairs. 
First of all, there were arrived at the larger character- 
istics of the design. These characteristics were 
thoroughly discussed by the Navy Department's 
representatives and the Curtiss Company's represen- 
tatives, and were then divided into their component 
elements. These component elements were distrib- 
uted among the drafting personnel for the working 
out of the details. 

As to individual responsibility or credit for certain 
details, it is exceedingly hard to be definite. One 
never can know, even of his own accomplishments, 
where the original idea came from. The boat hull, 
for example, the most important of the large ele- 
ments of this design, as well as the most unusual in 
its departure from previous practice, is in a very 
large measure the contribution of Naval Constructor 
Richardson. Its successful working out was made 
possible by his several years of experience in seaplane 
pontoon design and building, and by his knowledge 
of resistance secured as a result of his connection 
with the towing tank of the Washington Navy 
Yard. The general dimensions and the structural 


arrangements were largely suggested by him, and 
may be said to be almost entirely the fruits of his 
experience. As a matter of interest, however, it may 
be mentioned again that the short hull, necessitating 
an auxiliary structure for the support of the seaplane's 
tail, was the original suggestion of the Curtiss Com- 
pany, and was taken from a flying boat previously 
constructed by them. This flying boat was, in my 
opinion, almost entirely the product of ideas of Mr. 
W. L. Gilmore of that company. 

To a boat of this nature Naval Constructor Rich- 
ardson was at first opposed. He was, as a matter 
of fact, in favour of a construction somewhat more 
conventional, with a long tail, and the tail members 
of the airplane supported thereon. It may also be 
noted that the fundamental idea of the bottom of this 
boat hull was furnished by the shape of the boat hull 
of the H-16 for the design of which Commander 
Porte of the Royal Navy was largely responsible. 
In the H-16, however, were contained one or two 
features which prevented the full success of that 
design, and these features were eliminated by Naval 
Constructor Richardson in the model tests made by 
him and Naval Constructor McEntee in the towing 
tank in Washington. 

As to the tail, arguments arose. Naval Con- 
structor Richardson was, and still is, an advocate 
of monoplane tails. To me the size of the required 
tail was somewhat staggering, and I was in favour of 
a biplane tail. Involved in the question of the tail 
was the method of support to be adopted, and in con- 
nection with this there was also much argument, 


discussion, and investigation. After such discussions 
and investigations had run their courses, however, 
the tail decided upon was the biplane tail. The 
fundamental decisions arrived at, the design details 
were immediately taken in hand, and to these design 
details, as well as to those for practically every other 
portion of the plane, great and valuable contributions 
were made by Naval Constructor Richardson. We 
tried to have no pride of opinions. Ideas were pooled 
our own, as well as those uncovered by designs of 
other men and wherever we could find a good one we 
took it and used it. 

Working intimately with Naval Constructor Rich- 
ardson, and at all times in direct control of the Curtiss 
design personnel engaged, were Mr. W. L. Gilmore 
and Mr. J. A. Christen of the Curtiss Company. 
Their ideas, opinions, and experiences are so inter- 
woven in all the results accomplished that there can- 
not and should not be any attempt at identifying 
those pertaining to each individually. 

Before a satisfactory rib could be worked out, 
many less satisfactory, as has already been stated, 
had been tried. The one finally chosen was, essen- 
tially, the rib used in the Handley-Page airplanes of 
1917, though, in its construction, certain improve- 
ments had been made, and a lighter, stronger design 
had been secured. We were fortunate in having 
definite information regarding the Handley-Page rib. 
This information was no less definite than an actual 
portion of one of these ribs brought back by me, in 
September, 1917, after a visit to London. In London, 
I had the pleasure and good fortune of becoming well 


acquainted with Mr. Handley-Page, the designer 
of the great night bombing machines which bear his 
name, and of being permitted freedom of access to 
his manufacturing plant. On one of my visits to 
this plant, he gave me a section of one of his airplane 
ribs, and this souvenir I brought back with me on 
my return to the United States. 

Connected with this bit of an airplane rib is an 
amusing little story. Mr. Handley-Page is a genial, 
hearty, and an entertaining man. During the time 
I was in London in July, prior to my departure for 
the Continent, I saw much of him. With several other 
officers of the Aeronautical Commission mentioned 
previously, I was domiciled at one of the London 
hotels, and, either there or at other places, we enjoyed, 
not infrequently, the very pleasant company of Mr. 
Handley-Page. In addition to the facts that we 
were representatives of the newest of the Allies, and 
of a most welcome addition to the fold, and that, 
with the exception of some differences in accent and 
in pronunciation, we spoke the same language as 
himself, the fact that we represented the future 
aeronautical development of the United States gave 
us sufficient importance from Mr. Handley-Page's 
point of view to afford us the good fortune of becom- 
ing well acquainted with him. In his dealings with 
the British Air Service he had suffered many dis- 
appointments. Even as late as July, 1917, there 
was in Great Britain a powerful voice against the 
adoption of airplane bombing, and, even in the air 
service itself, a powerful element doubted the merit 
of airplane bombing operations. Mr. Handley- 

THE TRIUMPH OF tHfi N:0% 101 

Page, having devoted some years of his life to the 
development of bombing craft, believed, not un- 
naturally, that of all military instruments the air- 
plane bomber was the most important, and, baffled 
for the time being in his efforts to have large numbers 
of these planes built for the British Government, 
turned to us in the hope that the United States might 
be induced to take up the manufacture of this bomb- 
ing plane. We shortly discovered, to our pleasure, 
that he was somewhat sensitive, personally, regarding 
the very large amount of advertisement being se- 
cured by Signor Caproni, the great Italian designer, 
and the large planes designed and built by him for 
purposes somewhat similar to those for which the 
Handley-Page planes were intended. We also found 
that he was quite a bit gullible, and we secured much 
amusement by discussing with him the comparative 
merits of his own craft and those manufactured by 
Signor Caproni. We always took care to convey 
somewhat definitely the impression that we con- 
sidered the Caproni as the only real bombing plane 
in existence. We never failed, I believe, in our in- 
tention of starting him on a series of explanations, 
and out of this innocent sport secured no little amuse- 
ment. After we returned from Italy, and from a 
personal investigation of the Caproni airplanes, and 
of the plant in which they were built, and a delight- 
ful acquaintance with Signor Caproni himself, we 
were in a much better position to secure more harm- 
less amusement at the expense of Mr. Handley-Page, 
and took advantage of it. He knew he was being 
imposed upon, but the subject was one too intimately 

? r ^ffl& f RIFMPH OF THE N.C'S 

a portion of his fibre, and too near his heart, to make 
it possible for him to avoid the harmless pitfalls we 
were ever setting for him. 

On the evening on which I quit London for Liver- 
pool, and a steamer home, Mr. Handley-Page was 
thoughtful enough to drop into my hotel to say good- 
bye. There he found my luggage piled up in the 
lobby, and resting on top of it the airplane rib he had 
given me. The sight was too much for him. When 
I returned to the hotel he was on the point of leaving, 
as he had concluded my return might be too long 
delayed. He walked back with me into the lobby, 
and there I found a message, pasted around one of 
the sections of the airplane rib, which he admitted 
was his own handiwork. This message was the 
simple legend: "The thing that made Caproni 
jealous." It was this rib, adorned with this mess- 
age, which served as the foundation on which the 
ribs of the N.C's, shown in Chapter VII, were de- 
signed and built. 

Instrument Board, Centre Nacelle, N.C. -3 

Wireless Control Station in the After Cockpit, N.C. 1 

Liberty Engine, in Place on a Wing Nacelle, N.C.-l 

All the propellers are in motion, and she is ready for flight 





BY THE middle of January, 1918, we were far 
enough advanced with the design to give 
consideration to building. Our weight esti- 
mate indicated that we would be within 5 per cent, of 
the amount allowed ; our estimates of performance were 
encouraging. Much detail design, particularly on the 
tail, which had been delayed, was necessary, but most 
of the major construction work could be taken in hand. 

I estimated the boats, exclusive of engines, would 
cost over $50,000, and not more than $75,000, each. 
Actually, they cost very much more than the larger 
figure, about twice as much, in fact, but this was due 
to the great number of changes made in the design 
after the completion of the first boat. Duplicates 
of the last boat, the N.C. 4, could now be built in 
groups of four for about one hundred thousand each. 

Admiral Taylor, with the concurrence of the other 
Navy Department bureaus concerned, recommended 
the building of four of these craft, and the Secre- 
tary of the Navy immediately ordered the work 
taken in hand. 



Uncertainties regarding the type still existed in a 
very active degree, and in the department of the 
Navy charged with the operation of aircraft it was 
feared the work on the N.C. boats might interfere 
with work considered more pressing and more im- 
portant. To prevent such interference, it was defi- 
nitely ordered that it must be avoided. 

As there was no experience to guide us in estimating 
the cost of flying boats of this nature, it was decided 
to place the contract for the construction work with the 
Curtiss Engineering Corporation, without considering 
any other airplane builder, and to base the contract 
on the actual cost to that company of the work 
involved, plus a profit of 10 per cent, on this cost. 

In connection with the contract for the N.C. flying 
boats, the Navy Department reserved to itself the 
right of placing sub-contracts for any portions it might 
elect so to handle. Actually, the only structural 
parts purchased directly by the Navy Department 
and supplied to the Curtiss Company, for incorpo- 
ration in the completed structure, were three boat 
hulls. Two of these boat hulls were built by the 
celebrated boat building firm of Lawley & Sons, 
Neponset, Mass., and one was built by the Herr- 
eschoff Manufacturing Company, the famous boat 
builders of Bristol, R. I. The fourth boat hull was 
built by the Curtiss Company itself, as an item under 
the regular contract. 

When the details of the boat hull design were suf- 
ficiently advanced to make construction practicable, 
Mr, Fred Lawley, of Lawley & Sons, visited Garden 
City to examine these plans, and to arrive at a basis 


on which his firm could undertake the construction 
of two of them. This basis was rapidly arrived at. 
Mr. Lawley's attitude was most helpful, and there 
was no difficulty in reaching an agreement satis- 
factory to both sides. On this basis, a contract was 
placed with them for two boat hulls for these boats. 
The Herreschoff Company, of Bristol, R. L, were 
offered a contract for one of these boat hulls on the 
same terms, and accepted it. 

There were definite reasons for placing these con- 
tracts with three builders rather than with one only. 
It was hoped to secure some competition in speed of 
building, as well as in cost. It was considered prob- 
able that the ideas of different boat builders, regard- 
ing the structural details of these boat hulls, would be 
of value. Primarily, however, it was desired, in the 
event of additional boats of this nature being re- 
quired, to have at least three builders, sufficiently 
experienced with the design and with the details of 
construction, as sources of immediate supply. 

Even before the move from Buffalo to Garden 
City, a definite procedure for building the N.C's 
had been decided upon. The size of these boats is 
such that large quantities of space are required in their 
construction. The facilities of the Curtiss Engi- 
neering Corporation were insufficient for this pur- 
pose, and other contracts already secured by them 
were such as to require a considerable part of such 
space and facilities as they had. It had been de- 
cided that expedition in building could be obtained 
only if these boats were built on the "assembly" 
principle, rather than at one plant. 


Full use would be made of the Curtiss Company's 
facilities, but care would be taken not to overload 
them; and such work as could be efficiently and 
quickly performed elsewhere would be placed else- 
where. The work peculiar to airplane construction, 
and requiring experience gained in such construc- 
tion, would be performed by the Curtiss Company. 
This work would include the provision of the flying 
and landing wires, the layout and building of the 
gasoline system, of the flying controls, engine con- 
trols, and the nacelles, the covering of the wings, and, 
most important of all, the complete final assembly 
and adjustment of all the parts. 

A survey had already been made of the facilities 
existing in the vicinity of New York City, to deter- 
mine where the portions of the flying boats to be 
built outside the Curtiss plant could be most effect- 
ively and expeditiously constructed. This was at a 
time, of course, when few organizations not engaged 
in the production of war materials could be found in 
the country, and when the majority of these manu- 
facturing concerns were being pushed to the utmost 
limit of their capacities. There were, however, 
some manufacturing plants which, before the war, 
were engaged on work found at the outbreak of the 
war to be unnecessary for the purposes of war, and 
which, accordingly, had almost ceased to operate. 
Many of these manufacturing plants were of such a 
nature as to be fitted for the work of building por- 
tions of the N.C. flying boats, and it was among 
manufacturing plants of this type that the survey re- 
ferred to was especially made. It was certain that 


plants of this character would be able to proceed 
with little delay upon the work placed with them. 
A difficulty of some importance was anticipated on 
account of the weakened organization of most of 
these plants, due to lack of work, but this was a dis- 
advantage which must be accepted. In addition, 
no one of these plants could claim familiarity with 
work of the exact nature of that for which their 
facilities were being examined. This, however, was 
not a matter of any great seriousness, as the work 
would be in any case of a somewhat similar nature 
to that on which the plant had previously been 

As a result of the survey made, it was possible, 
very shortly after a contract had been placed with 
the Curtiss Company for four of these flying boats, 
for that organization to place sub-contracts for vari- 
ous parts of these craft within reasonable distances of 
New York City, or actually within that city itself. 
These sub-contracts, which were in addition to those 
placed directly by the Navy Department for the 
three boat hulls, were for metal fittings, for gasoline 
and oil tanks, for wings, ailerons, non-skid fins, and 
all tail surfaces; for wing struts or posts; for tail 
booms; for gasoline system valves and fittings, and 
for the wing tip floats. This list will strikingly show 
the extent to which the Curtiss Company was re- 
lieved, by the procedure adopted, of many onerous 
manufacturing details. 

Among the buildings comprised in the plant of the 
Curtiss Engineering Corporation, at Garden City, 
there was not one of sufficient size, or of sufficient 


truss height, for the work of assembly. For such 
work a special building was constructed. This build- 
ing, naturally and justly, was paid for by the Navy 
Department with the understanding that, at some 
future date, it would revert to the Curtiss Company, 
on the basis of an agreement to be arrived at by that 
company and the Navy Department. 

The early steps preceding the start of assembly 
of the N.C. 1 were filled with many small sorrows 
and difficulties, formidable and often disheartening 
when they came several at a time. Many drafting 
details were incorrect or incomplete and the sub- 
contractors were often clamouring for correct infor- 
mation, or were delayed by having to make over 
again things incorrectly made; many intricate and 
expensive metal fittings were destroyed in heat treat- 
ments, and valuable time was lost in replacing them; 
many small parts needed for the complete parts were 
forgotten, and were not ordered until the necessity 
for them actually existed, and delay was the result; 
in fact, all was bad luck and no good luck. In air- 
plane building it seems that optimism is never 
justified, that things are always worse, never better, 
than we expect, that unexpected happenings always 
hinder and never help. Nevertheless, in the latter 
part of May the necessary parts of the N. C. 1 had 
been delivered to Garden City, or had been built 
there, and assembly was started. 

In describing delays, there is danger that an unnec- 
essarily critical attitude may develop, and that 
criticisms, spoken or implied, may become personal. 
Such a result would be entirely unintentional. It is 


desirable, however, to record freely and frankly such 
incidents relating to the construction of these boats 
as may be of interest, and, in such records, facts must 
be stated as they existed. 

The Curtiss Engineering Corporation, as originally 
organized, was for the carrying on of experimental 
work only. It had much of the strength and much 
of the weakness usually existing in an aggregation 
of stars. Mr. Curtiss's inclinations run naturally 
in the direction of development work rather than 
in that of production work. Due to the demands 
of war conditions which this organization had not 
fully anticipated, it was called upon to become more 
of a production organization than a developing one, 
and the addition of four N.C. boats to these produc- 
tion demands increased greatly the burden being 
carried. The result at first was a decided lag in 
effect. The transforming of an engineering organiza- 
tion into a production organization is a matter of 
difficulty and one requiring, usually, much more time 
than is available while a war is in progress. 

As was to be expected from the conditions outlined, 
results, at first, were far from happy, and progress was 
much retarded. To meet the situation existing, there 
was created within the Curtiss organization a special 
organization, known as the N.C. organization, for 
duties solely in connection with the building of these 
boats. Until the creation of this special organiza- 
tion, the work on the N.C. boats had been practically 
without a head divested of other interests. To Mr. 
W. L. Gilmore, of the Curtiss organization, working 
under the supervision of the general manager of that 


company, had been assigned the oversight of the con- 
struction of these boats. Upon the shoulders of Mr. 
Gilmore, however, were borne such an amount of 
the weight of the work of the whole organization 
that the time he was able to devote to N.C. affairs 
was but a small portion of any one of his days. 
Duties of much complexity in connection with design 
were assigned him. In addition, he had indefinite but 
extensive duties in connection with the manufactur- 
ing activities in general. If any time was left him 
from such manifold and difficult demands, he was 
able to devote it to the handling of the numerous, 
difficult, and increasing details connected with these 
flying boats. 

Mr. Gilmore is by preference a designer. Work of 
manufacturing and the pursuit of the details involved 
do not hold his affection in any degree comparable 
with that he feels for development work. His 
abilities in the direction of manufacturing or produc- 
tion work are great, however, and fate decreed that 
he must so employ them. It was possible for the 
Curtiss Company to relieve him from the major 
portions of his other duties and assign him to the 
overlordship of the N.C. boats, and his efforts de- 
voted to speeding the progress of these craft had 
excellent results. 

As the work of the sub-contractors progressed, and 
the work of assembly of the first one of these boats 
was taken in hand, the details increased in their com- 
plexity, in number, and in difficulty. The personnel 
of the Curtiss organization became unequal to the 
demands made upon them. It was impossible to 


expand this personnel sufficiently. All over the 
country, and, as a matter of fact, all over the world, 
there was a dearth of men with manuf acturing expe- 
rience. It was becoming more and more pronounced 
as manufacturing enterprises increased, and a greater 
and greater number of men were drafted into mili- 
tary service. In the organization immediately 
under my command, however, there were a number of 
young officers of some manufacturing experience, 
and of the highest degree of intelligence. I detailed 
five of these officers for duties exclusively in con- 
nection with the N.C's, and placed them on this 
work to all intents and purposes as assistants to Mr. 
Gilmore of the Curtiss Company. With the assist- 
ance of Mr. Gilmore, an organization chart was 
prepared, a copy of which is considered as sufficiently 
interesting for inclusion here. In this organization 
these officers reported directly to Mr. Gilmore and 
received from him instructions as to the carrying 
out of their duties. As members of my official 
family, and, therefore, as responsible to me for work 
considered by me to be the most important of that 
coming under my supervision, it was natural that they 
should have exercised a very close liaison between 
the Curtiss Company and my office, and that ele- 
ments were occasionally introduced into the work in 
progress which required considerable forbearance 
on the part of all concerned. In such good faith did 
this arrangement proceed, however, that, notwith- 
standing its many very evident difficulties, it was 
practicable to carry on with it on terms of the 
best understanding, and with excellent results. To 


Mr. Gilmore much credit is due for his conduct 
throughout a situation of many difficulties. 

The plant of the Locke Body Company, where all 
wing and tail surfaces were built, is located in the 
heart of New York City. The upper outer wing 
panel of an N.C. boat is twelve feet wide by forty- 
five and three quarters feet long. It may be appre- 
ciated that the hauling of a fragile construction of 
this nature through the streets of New York City, 
and over the roads of Long Island to Garden City, 
a distance of about twenty-three miles, would re- 
quire the greatest amount of care, and would be of 
the greatest difficulty. To Lieutenant W. C. Wether- 
ill, of my office, was assigned the responsibility for 
the arrangements for transporting these wing sec- 
tions, and for the entire supervision of this work. 
He was so convinced of the difficulty of the under- 
taking, and of the necessity of successfully carry- 
ing it out without injury to the wing panels, that 
he assured me, when on the point of starting to move 
the first one, that, if anything happened to it on the 
way he, "Would jump overboard, and not go to the 
trouble of coming to the surface again." 

The route from the Locke Body Company's plant 
to the plant of the Curtiss Engineering Corporation, 
at Garden City, is over much-travelled streets and 
highways, and it was decided by Lieutenant Wether- 
ill to move the wing panels at night, during hours 
when little traffic would be encountered. This enter- 
prise was carried out with the utmost seriousness, 
and if any of the inhabitants of Long Island along 
the route followed went to the trouble of remaining 


long enough awake, they must have seen an exhibi- 
tion well paying them for their unusual exertion. 
The dimensions of the longer wing panels are such 
that no wagons available in New York City, other 
than one or two used by a theatrical scene hauling 
company, could transport them. When the first of 
these wing sections started on one of these long, 
broad wagons to Garden City, in the dead of the 
night, it was preceded by Ensign Hutchins, of my 
office, in a motor car, vigorously waving a red lantern 
whenever an attack from any vehicle threatened 
from ahead, and was followed by Lieutenant Weth- 
erill in another automobile, also vigorously waving 
a red lantern whenever an attack from the rear 
threatened. To further safeguard this precious 
freight, the wagon containing it was fringed with 
four red lanterns; and it is safe to say that any pedes- 
trians or vehicles encountering this strange cavalcade 
gave it a wide berth. 

The methods of transportation, while, perhaps, 
somewhat bizarre, were effective, and of the numer- 
ous wing panels, tail surfaces, and ailerons, moved 
from the Locke Body Company to Garden City, 
amounting in all to sixty-eight, not one suffered a 
mishap or an injury of any proportion. 

From the various sub-contractors the elements 
ordered were collected in the assembly building at 
Garden City. By the middle of August, the first 
one of these boats was approaching completion. 
Assembly was in progress on the second, and much 
of the work for the completion of the remaining two 
had been accomplished. The work of the sub- 


contractors had been done with the greatest degree 
of accuracy, and it was gratifying, though somewhat 
surprising, to discover that the assembly in the first 
flying boat, of the divers parts built by so many 
manufacturers, could proceed with practically no 
hitches whatever. In this assembly no discrepancies 
of any real seriousness were encountered, and the 
results obtained in this respect were far more favour- 
able than had been expected. In the work of the 
sub -contractors, many inaccuracies in the plans 
prepared by the Curtiss Company had, of course, 
been discovered. These inaccuracies were mostly 
in dimensions, errors in which had been overlooked 
by the checkers when making their corrections. 
The sub-contractors had checked these dimensions 
with such accuracy, however, and the Curtiss Com- 
pany, through Mr. J. A. Christen, had maintained 
such a close relation with the sub-contractors, that 
errors most likely to occur in the work were almost 
entirely absent, and were not in many cases such as 
to make necessary the rejection of the parts, or to 
prevent their inclusion in the final assembly. Upon 
Mr. Christen, of the Curtiss Company, fell the re- 
sponsibility for eliminating errors of this nature. 
In this work he was indefatigable, and to him is due 
in a large measure the credit for the preparation of 
plans so complete and so accurate that an assembly 
job of a greater degree of complexity, and of required 
accuracy, perhaps, than any assembly job previ- 
ously attempted, proceeded with so few delays, and 
with so few mishaps. 
In designing the engine mountings for the first of 


the N.C. boats, we had permitted ourselves to be 
nervous regarding the power of these engines. The 
most powerful airplane engine any of us had pre- 
viously dealt with was of 230 horsepower. The 
Liberty engine, before we completed the design of 
the N.C. boats, was rated at 400. This caused us 
to adopt a mounting of such rigidity and weight that 
a proper balance of the plane could be secured only by 
mounting the three engines near the leading edge of the 
wings, for the driving of tractor propellers. This was 
the least efficient propeller arrangement which could 
be adopted, but seemed inescapable. Best of all would 
have been three pusher propellers, but the weights 
would have been thrown so far back in such an ar- 
rangement that flight would have been impracticable. 

While the N.C. 1 was building, tests were made of 
other airplanes carrying Liberty engines, and it was 
found that the balance of these engines was so good 
that mountings much less rigid and heavy than those 
we had adopted would be sufficient. Our calculations 
showed us that we could mount the central engine 
far enough aft to use it for driving a pusher propeller, 
and that its effect on thebalance of the seaplane could 
be overcome by mounting the other two engines on 
bearers extending well forward of their previous po- 
sitions and supported by hollow steel tubing. This 
engine installation was decided upon for the N.C. 2, 
the N.C. 3, and the N.C. 4. 

By the latter part of August, when it became neces- 
sary for me to go abroad, the N.C. 1 was approach- 
ing completion and the others of her tribe were 
"coming along." 



JUST prior to my sailing for Europe on the 
25th of August a bomb of proportions had 
exploded under me, and some of the con- 
fidence I had felt in the outcome of the design 
and building of the N.C's was, temporarily, very 
seriously shattered. I know of no one, outside of 
the immediate personnel engaged on this work, who 
expressed unqualified confidence in the accomplish- 
ment of even the estimates we were counting on. 
I, however, regarded, and still regard, Commander 
Richardson as the leading authority of the world on 
airplane pontoons and flying boat hulls, and the 
fact that the design of the N.C. hull had been under 
his supervision, and that he vouched for it, was suf- 
ficient for me. Then one day he appeared unex- 
pectedly in my office in New York City, and waved 
some papers at me. I had thought it a beautiful 
day, unusually cool and crisp for August, and life 
was less strenuous than it had been at any time for 
many months. The N.C. 1 was approaching com- 



pletion; all factories turning out seaplanes were 
humming; and we had shipped so many abroad for 
our naval patrol stations that we could view the future 
with some confidence. The submarine menace was 
a bit less fearful; ships were being launched almost 
as fast as they were being sunk; and the Huns were 
retreating. Added to all of this was the excitement 
due to the fact that in a day or two I was sailing for 
the theatre of war on some special aeronautical duty 
for my Bureau. 

Richardson changed it all between heart beats! 
He had been drawing some more curves of the resist- 
ances shown in the towing tank by the boat hull 
model. On these curves he had found, at the speed 
necessary for leaving the water in flight, a sudden 
increase in resistance which he designated a "hump." 
"With luck," said he, "we may get into the air 
with 22,000 pounds." 

" Crash," went many of the remaining props under 
my confidence. As doubters increased I had bet on 
Richardson against them all, and suddenly, unex- 
pectedly, he had left me supported by nothing but 
hope, and by very little of that. 

It was in this state of uncertainty that I left this 
country and went to Europe, and in it I continued 
for several weeks until the cable brought news to 
London of the flights of the N.C. 1, which proved 
that Richardson had spoken too soon. 

Something happened to the "hump" and it wasn't 
where it was expected to be. When the N.C. 1 flew, 
it disregarded it, and was soon taking more weight 
into the air than we had dared to hope for. 



The first portions of the N.C. 1 were moved to 

Rockaway Beach, Long Island, N. Y., to the U. S. 
Naval Air Station, on September llth. By the 
23rd of the month the entire plane had been delivered 
there, and by the end of the month it had been as- 
sembled, and, except for a few finishing touches, was 
ready for flight. 

The Rockaway Beach Naval Air Station, which was 
chosen as the location of the N.C. hangar, is built on 
a narrow neck of land extending between Jamaica 
Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This property be- 
longs to the city of New York and was loaned by 
that city to the National Government for wartime 
purposes. For the erection and flights of the N.C. 
flying boats, it is remarkably well located. It is 
about twenty -one miles from the Curtiss Engineering 
Corporation's plant at Garden City, and between 
the station and that plant there are no obstructions 
to the transportation of airplane members of the size 
of those used in these seaplanes. 

On one side of this point is the ocean in which 
rough- water tests can be made; on the other side are 
the waters of Jamaica Bay, well protected from all 
directions, so that at practically all stages of weather 
there may be found in this bay smooth-water land- 
ings and smooth- water getaways. 

For some reason or other, not definitely known to 
myself, but probably tied up to a considerable ex- 
tent in the lack of confidence felt by the responsible 
authorities in Washington in this design, a hangar 
was authorized of sufficient size for two of these boats 
only, and sometime in May the construction of this 

The N.C. hangar at the left, in front of it the concrete handling platform. 
N.C. 1 is on the marine railway ready for launching. The HS-2 hangar is 
at the right, and an HS-2 flying-boat stands ready to be launched 

Four N.C.'s were built, but there was room in their hangar for only two 


The N.C. 1 has just returned from a record-breaking trial spin with fifty- 
one passengers. She intended to carry only fifty, but unwittingly carried 
also the kneeling gob at the right the first aerial stowaway. 

International Film Service 


Captain Powers Symington turns over the completed plans to Com- 
mander John T. Towers, commanding officer of the Division. His "flag- 
plane" was t'ne N.C. 3 


hangar was commenced. The dimensions of this 
hangar are approximately 165 feet by 110 feet. 
The 110 feet is in the clear and the height to the truss 
is approximately 30 feet. This building is of suf- 
ficient size to accommodate two completely assembled 
N.C. flying boats. In front of this hangar is a pave- 
ment of concrete approximately 160 feet square, 
of sufficient extent to make possible the handling of 
the boats in and out of the hangar and in and out 
of the water. 

Under ordinary conditions, without a crew on 
board, one of these boats will weigh in the neighbour- 
hood of ten tons. Its dimensions are such as to make 
impossible its simple pickup by crane or by some 
other means and moving from one place to an- 
other. To meet these conditions, a special handling 
truck, mounted on four wheels, has been designed. 
This truck is of sufficient surface to prevent un- 
due concentration of weight on the necessarily frag- 
ile boat hull, and to further safeguard this boat 
hull the bearing surface of the truck is padded with 

Due to the great over all dimensions of this craft, 
126 feet by 67 feet, it is necessary to be able to ma- 
noeuvre it with very little forward or rear motion. 
Accordingly, the wheels of the truck have been so 
installed as to permit their setting at various angles, 
so that a turn-table effect can be obtained and the 
flying boat may be rotated in either direction without 
any movement of translation whatsoever. This 
rotation has proven easy of accomplishment, and 
a few men shoving against the wing tip floats can 


quite easily rotate the machine at as high a degree 
of speed as is desired. 

Movements into and out of the hangar are accom- 
plished by gasoline-driven caterpillar tractor trucks, 
one of them of 60 horsepower. The larger of these 
trucks also pulls the boats up the inclined marine 
railway in getting them from the water to the land. 

This docking arrangement is in all essentials simi- 
lar to that made for small yachts. A regular marine 
railway of two steel rails has been built at a proper 
inclination from the sea wall, of sufficient length 
to carry the boats into water deep enough to float 
them from their handling trucks. On this railway 
is a special handling car so built that its platform is 
horizontal notwithstanding the fact that its wheels 
run on rails inclined to the horizontal at an angle 
of about 15. There is a departure from ordinary 
marine railway practice in the provision at each side 
of our railway of a handling platform which runs 
parallel to it and is of equal length. These are 
required due to the great area of one of these 
planes exposed to the wind, and to the necessity for 
having men hold the craft steady while it is being 
landed in its handling truck. 

When the railway car is at the upper end of its 
travel its platform is flush with the concrete area in 
front of the hangar, and the handling truck carrying 
the seaplane may run from this car to the concrete 
area. It may be appreciated how simple it is to get 
one of these boats in or out of the water during good 
weather. In bringing it in the railway car carrying 
the handling truck is run out into water of sufficient 


depth; the boat is floated into place and is held there; 
a small movement of the car up the railway lands the 
boat hull in its cradle, and the remainder of the 
operation is an obvious one. Launching is even 
simpler. The truck with its freight is run on to the 
railway car with the nose of the boat pointing sea- 
ward; then engines are started and run slowly; the 
car is lowered slowly down the railway incline until 
in water of enough depth for the flotation of the 
boats, when an increase in the engine revolutions will 
carry the plane free and ready for flight. 

Due to a circumstance of some seriousness, how- 
ever, this simple operation is not always practicable. 
In laying out this marine railway, the grade was placed 
a few inches below the beach line. In addition to 
this, certain side structures running well out into the 
water, and used as platforms for handling and guid- 
ing the boats into their handling trucks when they 
are being taken out of the water, have been so con- 
structed as to cause the beach to build up. The 
result is that large quantities of sand are deposited 
on the marine railway, and it is not infrequent that 
these deposits are so great as to interfere seriously 
with, or even prevent, the launching of these boats. 

When the marine railway is lightly covered with 
sand, it is frequently possible, by starting the en- 
gines and permitting the boat on its truck to run 
down the marine railway, to cut through this sand 
and reach the uncovered railway beyond. When 
this is not possible, sand must be shovelled out la- 
boriously, and a passageway prepared through which 
the marine railway truck can make its way. Under 


the suggestion of Naval Constructor Richardson, 
there were placed in front of the forward wheels of 
the marine railway truck steel ploughs, and these 
ploughs, contrary to the expectations of a number 
of scoffers, myself among the number, proved most 
effective, and made it possible to launch these craft 
under conditions which would previously have en- 
tailed several hours' work at sand dredging on the 
part of the entire handling crew. 

On the first of October, the motors of the N.C. 1 
were started for the first time. The two outside 
motors were equipped with electric self-starters, 
whereas the centre motor was started by hand starter 
only. Since that time all motors have been equip- 
ped with electric starters on all of the boats of the 
N.C. type, and hand starters are no longer used. 

In determining the relative locations of the centre 
of gravity of the N.C. 1 and the centre of lift of all 
its lifting surfaces we discovered the centre of gravity 
was so much farther back than we had anticipated 
that the craft in flight would be tail heavy. Our 
figures showed that this condition could be corrected 
by a weight of 1,750 pounds in the bow. The adop- 
tion of such a method for correcting balance could, 
of course, be a temporary expedient only, as the carry- 
ing of useless dead weight could not be tolerated. 
It was desirable to try the general qualities of the 
plane as soon as possible, and 1,200 pounds of sand 
in small bags was placed in the nose of the boat. 
The total weight was then 16,200 pounds. 

All was ready on the 4th of October for the momen- 
tous determination. Would she fly, or wouldn't she? 


Would she fly well enough to give us encouragement, 
or would there be some terrible fault of proportion, 
of balance, of control, which would prove her the 
impossible craft many believed her? 


AA ** Asorr WMCH V&ATMACOCK Srooturr w 


CC >Wt AZxrr WHXH lONtuTvOiMAt. 3tAAiulT l > E T * " STJ. 

At Rockaway Beach the entire personnel of the air 
station gathered as spectators; as many of the mem- 
bers of the personnel of the Curtiss Company as 
could find excuses for being present were there; the 
officers from my New York office, and from that of 
Captain Hall, the representative of the Bureau of 
Steam Engineering, found duty had called them to 
Rockaway Beach. As for myself, I was in Queens- 
town, Ireland, aware, of course, of the imminence of 
the event, and wondering just when it would be and 
what would happen. 

Commander Richardson was in charge of the test. 


He had come down from his office in Buffalo several 
days before to see to the finishing touches. He and 
Lieutenant Dave McCulloch of the Reserve Force, 
afterward with him one of the pilots of the N.C. 3 
on her trip to the Azores, were the pilots. The 
others of the crew were Machinist Philo H. Danly of 
the Reserve Force, and George Robinson and Van 
Sicklen of the Curtiss Company. 

They took their places. The engines were started, 
and warmed up with the steady, healthy roar of thirty- 
six cylinders " hitting" perfectly. Richardson waved 
a hand, and a line from the marine railway carriage 
to the beach was slacked away. Down the inclined 
railway, off from their cradle, they went. Back and 
forth for a while they ran to give the pilots a chance 
to feel out the controls. Then they turned and 
headed into the gentle wind from the west which 
was hardly flecking the surface. 

The roar of the engines increased; the spray flew 
from the bow of the boat hull; the speed increased; 
and all on the beach knew that the N.C. 1 was at 
last determined to try her own element. 

Would she make it, or would some 59th minute 
mishap spoil the show? 

Almost before the question could be asked, the 
wake on the water narrowed to a ribbon, and then 
ended. She was in the air, she was flying! A cheer 
vented the tenseness of those on shore many 
cheers blending in one. The largest flying boat in 
the world was in the air. 

After an instant she began to settle. The spec- 
tators held their breaths. Down, down she dropped, 


nearer the water, then on to the surface in a perfect 
landing. Something was wrong evidently, but no 
mishap had resulted. Back to the beach she came, 
and all gathered to meet her. 

Nothing whatsoever was wrong. They had re- 
turned simply to take on board Captain Parker of the 
Coast Guard, the Commanding Officer of the Rock- 
away Beach Naval Air Station, whose assistance in 
connection with the work carried on at his station 
had been so helpful that he was considered as entitled 
to an early ride. Two more short "hops," each of a 
duration less than a minute, were made, and to the 
great satisfaction of everyone it was evident that the 
N.C.I would be successful. How successful could not 
be told until the ability as a weight lifter had been de- 
termined, but it was certain that as a flying craft it 
would be satisfactory. 

These flights showed, however, that the plane was 
still tail heavy. To correct this, an additional weight 
of 555 pounds was added, bringing the total weight 
up to the amount previously estimated as necessary 
for balance. An additional passenger was taken on 
board, which brought the total weight of the ma- 
chine up to 16,930 pounds. At this weight, three 
more hops were made. 

There had now been made six hops, giving a total 
time in the air of 4f minutes. The operation of the 
plane, though not entirely satisfactory, was excellent. 
It was evident that the designers had developed an 
airplane different in many ways from any machine 
previously built, but which, on the whole, fulfilled ex- 
pectations and promised excellent results. 


The weights added for the correction of the tail 
heaviness had not accomplished their purpose. The 
effect of the powerful blast from the propellers on the 
tail surfaces was greater than anticipated, and other 
methods were necessary to remedy this tail-heavy con- 
dition. Of an airplane's structure, the member of the 
tail surface known as the stabilizer is one of the most 
important. Upon the relation between this stabilizer 
and the wings of the airplane depends in almost im- 
portant degree the ability of the airplane to carry 
out an ordered flight. It was evident that in the 
N.C. 1 this relationship was not a correct one, and a 
procedure was adopted, a usual one in airplane con- 
struction, of so changing the position of the stabilizer 
as to vary the relationship. 

There followed now a series of tests with con- 
stantly increasing loads, and with constantly increas- 
ing confidence on the part of the flyers in this 
boat. It was found that at normal angles of flight 
and at weights ordinarily to be expected, within 
range of flying weights, the airplane handled very 
easily, was remarkably stable inherently without 
having lost its controllability, and that flight with 
it was, in reality, very little more difficult than with 
a much smaller boat. This ease of flight was con- 
tributed to, in a pronounced degree, by the fact that 
the three control surfaces, the ailerons, the elevators, 
and the rudders, were each of what is known as the 
balanced type. That is to say, a portion of the sur- 
face of each of these control surfaces was placed for- 
ward of the axis around which these surfaces work. 
The result is that the air, striking these surfaces for- 


ward of the axis itself, assists in turning these control 
surfaces in the direction desired. The proper pro- 
portioning of these surfaces is a matter of great dif- 
ficulty. An airplane flies at so many different speeds, 
and under such different conditions of propeller revo- 
lutions and flight angles, that the degree* of balance 
satisfactory for one condition may be entirely unsat- 
isfactory for another condition. The determinations 
in the case of the surfaces of the N.C. 1, however, 
have proven to be remarkably satisfactory, and have 
given this large boat an ease of flight and of control 
highly gratifying to its designers, as well as satis- 
factory to its pilots. 

There also followed the inevitable process of 
changes. One change after another was made, some 
important, some unimportant, and there would be 
little interest in describing these changes in detail 
or the reasons therefor. The effect of them, taken 
as a total, was beneficial, and it may be said that the 
performance of these boats has been improving so 
constantly, due to changes, modifications, and knowl- 
edge of their characteristics, that, even yet, it is 
impracticable to state definitely what they are cap- 
able of. Among the most important changes made 
were an increase in the fuel capacity of the boat, a 
change in the gasoline fittings from aluminum to 
bronze, and a change in the nature of many of the 
valves in this system. 

Naval Constructor Richardson had been so much 
encouraged by the performance of the N.C. 1 that 
he determined on a more ambitious project than the 
simple tests this boat had been engaged upon. On 


the 7th of November, with Commander Richardson 
as officer in charge and acting as assistant pilot, and 
Lieutenant Dave H. McCulloch as pilot, a start was 
made from Rockaway Beach for the city of Wash- 
ington, for the purpose of exhibiting this large bird 
to the interested officials in that city. In addition to 
these officers there were on this flight, as passengers, 
or as members of the crew, Lieutenant Harold Wes- 
son, Ensign G. N. Gregory, Ensign C. J. McCarthy, 
Ensign H. B. Sanford, Machinist P. H. Danly, Chief 
Special Mechanic E. H. Howard, and Chief Machin- 
ist's Mate Rhodes, a total of nine. The weight of the 
flying boat at getaway was 20,272 pounds. Six hun- 
dred and ninety -one gallons of gasoline were carried, 
and the oil tanks and radiators were filled. The 
getaway from Rockaway Beach was made at 10:50 
A. M., after a run on the water of forty seconds. The 
day was fair and clear. A light west wind was blow- 
ing and the sea at Rockaway Beach was practically 

After taking the air and rounding the point at 
Rockaway Beach, the course was set parallel to the 
New Jersey and Delaware coasts to Metomkin 
Bay. It was the intention to cross the peninsula at 
this point to Pocomoke Sound on Chesapeake Bay, 
and to proceed up Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac 
River to Washington. 

For the first half hour everything proceeded 
smoothly; then a leak was discovered in the water 
connections of the central radiator. The central 
motor was shut down and the flight was continued 
with the two outer motors, an attempt being made to 


repair the leak while in the air. This was found im- 
practicable, and it was decided to land and repair the 
leak before proceeding. In the event of necessity, 
the flight could have been continued with the two 
motors, but as it was intended to cross the peninsula 
for a considerable distance, it was considered inad- 
visable to continue the flight without the repair nec- 
essary, as in the event of the stoppage of another 
motor a landing would have become imperative and, 
if made on land, would have destroyed the machine 
and seriously endangered the lives of all on board. 
At 11 :25 a landing was made on the ocean, just north 
of Barnegat Inlet. The leak was repaired, and the 
radiator was filled with sea water, since no provision 
had been made for such a contingency, and no spare 
water had been taken. The element of a flying 
boat is the air, and little provision is ordinarily made 
for contingencies which may happen on the water. 
No provision had been made for the present one, 
and the process of dipping water from the sea for 
the filling of this radiator was a difficult one. It was 
finally accomplished by means of one of the boat 
bilge pumps, by pumping from the sea into an am- 
munition box placed on the deck, and from the 
ammunition box to the radiator above, by means of 
the other bilge pump. At the time, the swells in the 
ocean at that point were very high, and added to 
the difficulty of work of this nature on a light struc- 
ture which bobbed around like a cork, was the fact 
that several of the passengers and crew were seasick. 
After an hour, however, repairs were completed, all 
radiators were filled, and a new getaway was. made. 


The landing off Barnegat has been spoken of at 
considerable length as it was of great importance. 
The swells were of the ordinary ocean type and were 
about ten feet high. Almost no breeze was blowing. 
Notwithstanding these swells and the absence of a 
breeze to assist in landing and in getting away, the 
landing was made without any sensation of shock, 
and the getaway was accomplished after a run of 
one minute, and without any appreciable difficulty. 
As has been said before, the element of a flying boat 
is the air. It rests upon, or runs upon, the water 
purely as a matter of necessity and is not at home 
there. Its home is in an element less than 1-800 
the density of water, and it must be built of a light- 
ness fitting it for this element. When, therefore, 
the N.C. 1, built for this lighter element, had been 
able to accomplish with such success a landing and a 
getaway from the heavier element, at that time 
engaged in no small degree of its usual turbulence, 
it was considered that a further merit of this sea- 
plane and of its peculiar type of boat hull had been 
strikingly demonstrated. 

The remainder of the trip was passed without any 
particular incidents. In crossing the peninsula from 
Metomkin Bay to Pocomoke Sound, the flight was 
made at a height of about 2,000 feet. Instead of 
following the Potomac for its full course, as had been 
originally intended, it was decided, on account of the 
unexpected delay caused by the leaking radiator, to fly 
across land from Mathias, Va., to Marshall Hall, Md., 
a distance of about eighteen miles. For this flight, 
an altitude of 2,500 feet was obtained. Alexandria, 


Va., was passed at 5 p. M. These were the short 
days of the year and dusk was approaching. No 
attempt was made to fly over the city of Washington, 
as it was necessary to land and to tie up before dark. 
At 5:10 p. M., a landing was made at the Anacostia 
Naval Air Station, a short distance from the Wash- 
ington Navy Yard, and the N.C. 1 was taken in tow 
by a motor launch and towed to her mooring. 

On the following morning, she was visited by 
Admiral Taylor, Chief of the Bureau of Construction 
and Repair, the officer most responsible for her con- 
struction, since it was he, as has been described in 
considerable detail in a former chapter, who decreed 
the design and building; by Rear- Admiral Griffin, 
Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering, and by 
many other officers connected with the Navy De- 
partment in Washington. On the part of the unof- 
ficial portion of Washington society, great interest 
was also shown, and there would have been little 
difficulty in having the boat thronged with visitors 
during the entire time of its stay in Washington. 
This stay was brief. At 1 :40 P. M., the anchor was 
weighed and the return trip was commenced. On 
this trip, a flight was first made to the Naval Air 
Station at Hampton Roads, Va. On board were the 
personnel who had joined at Rockaway Beach, 
with an added passenger in the person of Commander 
A. K. Atkins, of the Bureau of Steam Engineering. 
The inevitable moving-picture operators were on 
hand, and all operations from the weighing of the 
anchor to the instant of getaway were filmed. 

During the brief stay of the N.C. 1 in Washing- 


ton there was invented a name for this type which 
has come more and more into popular use. A news- 
paper reporter, in getting his notes for an early edi- 
tion, apparently got the substance and not the mean- 
ing of the pronunciation of the two letters N C, and 
in the article from his pen, published in the after- 
noon paper, referred to the N.C. 1 as the Nancy. 
The "patness" of this designation was apparent, and 
these boats are now very often referred to simply as 
the Nancies. 

The flight to Hampton Roads followed the course 
down the Potomac to Monroe, Va., thence across 
country to Lloyds, Va., on the Rappahannock, down 
the Rappahannock to Chesapeake Bay, thence down 
the bay and across the mouths of the York and James 
rivers to Hampton Roads Air Station, on the site 
occupied years ago by the Jamestown Exposition. 
At the beginning of the flight the atmosphere was 
very hazy and the air very rough. It was found dif- 
ficult to keep the Potomac River in sight unless the 
boat was maintained at a very low altitude. When 
Monroe was reached, however, the atmosphere had 
cleared, and the cross-country flight to the Rap- 
pahannock was made at an altitude of about 2,000 

Just before Newport News was reached, the course 
lay directly over Langley Field. At that time the 
altitude was about 2,000 feet, which seemed a con- 
siderable distance above the field. In the air above, 
however, a single Army plane flew at such an ele- 
vation as to be barely visible, and it seemed like 
a mere speck in the sky. Landing at the Naval Air 


Station at Hampton Roads, Va., was made at 4:29 
p. M. 

On the following morning the boat was made 
ready for the return trip to the Rockaway Beach 
Naval Air Station. Commander Atkins left at this 
point, and the personnel of the crew were those who 
had joined on the start from Rockaway Beach. At 
10:57 A. M., a start was made, but before going any 
distance carburetor trouble developed in the centre 
motor and it was necessary to land and clean this 
carburetor. About an hour later the final getaway 
was made, and the course was set across the entrance 
of Chesapeake Bay, and up the coast to Rocka- 
way Beach without any special incidents of inter- 
est. The trip was completed and the landing was 
made at the Rockaway Beach Air Station at 4 P. M. 

On this round- trip flight 1,024 gallons of gasoline 
had been consumed. The total miles traversed were 
819; the total time of operation of the motors was 12 
hours and 13 minutes. The gasoline consumption 
was 83.8 gallons per hour, or 1.25 gallons per mile. 

It may be said with certainty that from the seeds 
of this trip budded the confidence which later flowered 
into the plans for the adventure of the N.C. boats 
on the transatlantic flight. By it many of the 
chief doubters of the success of the design were con- 
vinced of their error, and were converted into advo- 
cates of the type. 

Ordinary routine flights for test purposes were 
made from the time of this return until the 27th of 
the month the day before Thanksgiving. On this 
day the N.C. 1 was taken out for the purpose of 


breaking a world's record. Shortly before this 
a Super-Handley-Page airplane had made a flight 
in London carrying 40 passengers, and it was desired 
to exceed this performance. Into the hull of the 
N.C.1, and into the centre nacelle, there were 
packed 50 persons, mostly officers and enlisted men on 
duty at the Rockaway Beach Naval Air Station, and 
the flight was made. This flight was, in reality, of lit- 
tle more than a half minute's duration, as it was not 
desired to take any greater risk with so many lives. 
The amount of weight, however, was considerably 
less than this seaplane has flown with, and it could 
have made a flight of several hours' duration without 
any difficulty. 

Upon returning to the landing, the passengers 
were disembarked, and were counted, and it was 
found that instead of the 50 expected, there disem- 
barked 51. One of the men attached to the Rocka- 
way Beach Air Station, Machinist's Mate, 2d class, 
Harry D. Moulton, being possessed with an over- 
whelming desire to have a ride on this boat on that 
historic occasion, had stowed himself away beside 
the gas tanks in a narrow passageway, in such a space 
that he must have been most uncomfortable. He 
had remained in this space for an hour and a half 
before the flight began. 

There have been occasions before when unexpected 
passengers have been taken into the air. Work- 
men engaged on the interior of large flying boats have 
found themselves involuntary companions of pilots 
who have gone aloft without a sufficiently thorough 
examination of their craft; earnest individuals, 


Three flying sailors of the N.C. 1, two of them in their air clothes. They 
are, left to right, Lieut-Commander Bellinger and Pilots Mitscher and Barm 

(& International Film Service 


The "Lame Duck" has caught up with the others and all three are ready 
to start the long "hop" which she alone was destined to make in safety 

International Film Service 



mostly of the German race, failing to let go of lines 
attached to dirigibles or to kite balloons, have soared 
aloft with them, generally to their undoing. There 
has not previously, in all probability, been a case 
where a man deliberately crawled into the structure of 
a flying boat, and, without the permission or knowl- 
edge of the pilot, stowed himself away in order that 
he might be a party to the flight in contemplation. 
To Moulton, therefore, belongs a dual record: that 
of having assisted in breaking a world's record, and 
that of having done so uninvited, as the first aerial 

On January 17th, it was decided that the tests of 
this craft were completed; that its period of growth 
and training had ended and that it could be turned 
over to the operating branch of the Navy for active 
service. On that day it was delivered by the Bureaus 
of Construction and Repair and Steam Engineering 
into the custody of the Division of Operations, and 
was by that Division assigned for operating purposes 
to the Rockaway Beach Naval Air Station, 



ATER the first flights of the N.C. 1 there 
began to be, on the part of a number of 
officers of the Navy Department, an active 
interest in the subject of the transatlantic flight. 
In spite of the technical continuation of the war, 
everybody realized that, as a matter of actual fact, 
it was completed. The N.C. boats, built originally 
for strictly war purposes, would no longer be re- 
quired for such purposes, and it was in order to 
consider to what useful purpose they could be put 
at the earliest date. It was natural and logical 
that as soon as the N.C.I, in its trials, developed 
the possibilities of this type, thought should turn 
to flying the ocean with them as a peace-time ac- 
complishment instead of as the purely military 
purpose for which these flights had originally been 

Reports reached me in Europe of the consideration 
being given the transatlantic flight, and after 
my return to this country, on December 16, 1918, 
this was one of the things of interest concerning 



which inquiry was first made by myself. It was 
found that a "Planning Committee" of the Division 
of Operations had been appointed to consider and 
report upon this project, but the demobilization 
duties, thrown on that division by the "blowing 
up" of the war, were so great that this committee had 
been physically unable to devote any time to extrane- 
ous subjects, and had done little or nothing regarding 
a flight across the ocean. 

Down on Long Island, where the N.C. boats 
were building, it was found that progress on them 
had been almost entirely stopped while improvement 
suggested by the trials on the N.C.I were being 
incorporated. Commander Richardson had had 
charge of practically all of the flight trials of the 
N.C.I, and it was under his direction that the changes 
and modifications in the later boats, suggested by 
these trials, were being made. As there was no 
longer any urgency felt in connection with the com- 
pletion of these boats for anti-submarine purposes, 
it was distinctly the logical thing to proceed with 
beneficial modifications in the later boats to develop 
a type as nearly perfect as possible. The inescapa- 
ble effect of starting these changes, however, was 
that work had to be held up on the other boats and 
that, with the exception of the N.C. 2, no work at 
all, except engineering work and the preparation 
of plans, was in progress. The N ' .C.2 was too far 
advanced to make the inclusion of the major portion 
of these changes desirable and was, therefore, being 
proceeded with, and was very nearly completed. 

Consideration of the requirements of the trans- 


atlantic flight gave a different aspect to the situa- 
tion. It was evident that the completion of these 
boats in tune for the flight would involve a curtail- 
ment of the process of change and the building of the 
boats very much in accordance with the plans al- 
ready developed. From the plans, which it was 
presumed were being made by other countries or by 
individuals, for the transatlantic flight, it seemed 
certain that if the United States Navy was to be 
first across, the start from this side must be made 
some time in the late spring. It was decided, there- 
fore, to discontinue immediately the programme of 
changes, and to proceed with the completion of the 
boats as originally decided upon with the inclusion 
of only such changes as could be made incident to 
this completion, and without holding up entirely 
the progress on the boats. This plan was, accord- 
ingly, immediately proceeded with, and in a short 
time construction work was again in full blast. Of 
Commander Richardson's suggestions, and of the 
suggestions made by the officers connected with the 
power plant installation, for improving the N.C. 
boats, it was possible during construction to adopt 
many, and practically all of them have been found 
to be of the greatest merit, and to have the effect 
of improving the design as a whole. 

Shortly after Christmas, it was possible to discuss, 
in Washington, with Captain Tompkins of the Divi- 
sion of Operations, the head of the Transatlantic 
Flight "Planning Committee," the question of this 
flight. We discussed the flight itself, the condition 
of the N.C. boats at that time, the many things re- 


maining to be done, and the many steps to be taken 
in connection with them and the other plans of the 
flight. A very great amount of work remained to 
be done during the comparatively short time re- 
maining available, and it was evident that the project 
must be immediately started with the greatest 
amount of energy by all of the branches of the Naval 
Service who would be connected with it, if possi- 
bilities of success were to be a maximum. At 
Captain Tompkins' request I prepared for him a 
few days later the report now quoted: 

No. 3109 January 15, 1919. 

From: Commander G. C. Westervelt, Construc- 
tion Corps, U.S.N., New York City. 

To: Captain John P. Tompkins, U.S.N., 

Operations, Navy Department, Washing- 
ton, D.C. 

Subject: Transatlantic Flight Discussion of de- 

1. Consideration of the subject of a transat- 
lantic flight by an airplane indicates that the project 
is one which for its success will probably depend, so 
far as the first flight of this nature is concerned, on 
Governmental backing. The first accomplishment 
of this feat will give to the organization of the Govern- 
ment accomplishing it a considerable amount of 
deserved prestige. It is, naturally, my desire, as I 
have no doubt it is that of the majority of the officers 
of the Naval Service, that this flight be first accom- 
plished b.y craft built and flown under the control 
of the Navy Department. 

2. There can be no doubt that several govern- 
ments, or, in any event, organizations in several 
countries receiving the approval and support of their 


governments, are making active preparations for 
attempting this flight during the coming spring and 
summer. A careful consideration of the elements 
involved indicates that the chances of success are 
considerably more than even. If, therefore, the 
United States Navy is to have the opportunity of 
accomplishing this flight before it has been accom- 
plished by any other country, or by an individual, or a 
syndicate formed for the purpose, and acting under 
Governmental encouragement, steps should be taken 
toward an immediate organization of the project 
along lines which will reduce the elements of failure 
to an absolute minimum. It is necessary, also, that 
the arrangements to be made should be completed 
as soon as practicable, in order that the flight might 
be started with very little delay should it be found 
that arrangements of any other persons contemplat- 
ing such a flight had already progressed to such a 
point as to endanger the priority of our contemplated 
flight. As an accompaniment of this, the greatest 
degree of reticence should be preserved regarding all 
of the arrangements made, or to be made, and the 
contemplated date at which the flight would start. 

3. As is well known, there are two routes for this 
flight which promise in varying degrees, depending 
on the circumstances under which the flight is under- 
taken, a successful outcome. One route is from St. 
Johns, Newfoundland, to the coast of Portugal, via 
the Azores. The other is from St. Johns, New- 
foundland, to Bantry Bay, Ireland, direct. It has 
not, as yet, been practicable to examine thoroughly 
enough into the elements of these two courses to ad- 
vance a definite opinion as to which one, if either, 
offers a definite advantage. It may be said, however, 
that to the large type of flying boat now under con- 
struction by the Navy Department, the N.C. 1 type, 
either route offers a very fair degree of success, pro- 
vided the undertaking be properly organized, and 


as many of the elements of doubt as practicable be 
eliminated before starting. 

4. The N.C. 1 type of flying boat is capable of a 
flight of at least one thousand miles with a crew of five 
men. This means, whether the northern route or the 
southern route be adopted, it must be with the cer- 
tainty that one landing, at least, for replenishment of 
gasoline must be made on the ocean on the way. 
With the probability of receiving some assistance 
from the wind on the northern route, one landing, 
only, will be required on this route, placing this route 
on an equality with the southern route. As no flight 
would be started unless the condition of the ocean 
was such as to make practicable landing and getting 
away, it seems fairly reasonable to presume that 
landing near a ship detailed for the purpose, taking 
on a supply of gasoline, and again getting away for 
the continuation of the flight, would be entirely prac- 
ticable. Dismissing, therefore, the inescapable ne- 
cessity of landing on the ocean as one productive of no 
great handicap, consideration may immediately be 
given to the other elements of the project. 

5. As a definite accomplishment, carrying with it 
all of the prestige related to an accomplishment of 
this nature, it would, I believe, be advisable, pro- 
vided the chances of success seem sensibly equal, to 
attempt the northern course in preference to the 
southern. This would involve a fairly straight-away 
flight, on a course somewhat north of east, of slightly 
less than two thousand land miles. Presuming that 
the motors run successfully for the length of flight 
involved (approximately thirty hours of flying, at the 
speed which would be chosen, counting no assistance 
from the wind), this flight, as a flight, reduces itself 
largely to a question of successfully hitting the objec- 
tive at the far end. In order to eliminate the pos- 
sibility of failure in this direction, stake boats should 
be located at definite intervals, probably somewhere 


in the neighbourhood of one hundred miles apart, 
across the ocean on the course to be flown. These 
boats, presumably destroyers, or small craft of some 
nature, would be a definite part of the project, and 
would be counted upon for several days in advance 
of the flight for weather reports on which, combined 
with the weather reports from other sources, the hour 
of starting the flight would be based. 

6. St. Johns Harbour, Newfoundland, is, as men- 
tioned above, the logical starting point for such a 
flight. A seaplane attempting this flight must be in 
that harbour a number of days in advance of the con- 
templated flight in order to take advantage of the 
most favourable moment for starting. In reaching 
this harbour a flight of seven to eight hundred miles 
from Rockaway Beach, the present location of N.C. 1 9 
is involved. In addition, it may be necessary for 
seaplanes attempting this flight to lie at St. Johns for 
a considerable length of time, during which the up- 
keep of the craft, and the maintenance of crews and 
up-keep gangs, would be necessary. To provide 
for all contingencies, there should be delivered in 
advance to this location spare engines and spare 
parts for the power plant and for certain portions 
of the plane, as well as a complete supply of the very 
many items for which necessity -may be found. 
There will be several hundred of such items, as it 
would be unwise to rely upon the local markets for 
the provision of any of them. The gasoline supply 
should be arranged for. If practicable, facilities 
should be provided for getting these seaplanes out 
of the water, in order to keep the hulls as light as 
possible, and all necessary facilities for the housing 
of the crews and up-keep gangs should be provided. 

7. Arrangements will be required at St. Johns 
for receiving weather reports from all localities, the 
weather of which might have a bearing on the flight. 
Cooperation of the authorities controlling wireless 


and of those controlling cables would be necessary, 
since hourly weather reports across the Atlantic 
from the stake boats, from the Azores, from the north 
of Scotland, and, if practicable, from Iceland, would 
be invaluable. It appears to me also that it would 
be exceedingly desirable to provide St. Johns, as 
well as the stake boats, with a large number of sound- 
ing balloons and necessary tubes of hydrogen for 
testing the movement of the air up to five thousand 

8. So far as the stake boats are concerned, each 
of these vessels should be provided with some 
efficient type of signalling apparatus by means of 
which the passing seaplanes can be easily and surely 
communicated with by day or by night. Each ves- 
sel, of course, will report to the vessel astern and the 
vessel ahead the hour of the passing of the seaplane, 
and should be prepared to furnish the plane with in- 
formation regarding the direction of the wind and the 
strength of the wind at the next stake boat ahead, in 
order that any variation in the wind from that exist- 
ing at the hour of its departure might be taken advan- 
tage of. Each stake boat should also be provided 
with some means of creating a smoke column, and of 
thereby increasing its visibility as greatly as possible. 
Stake boats in areas in which a landing for a replen- 
ishment of fuel will be made should also carry suf- 
ficient gasoline in easily transportable containers for 
replenishment purposes, and should also carry boats 
suitably arranged for carrying this gasoline and for 
going alongside the seaplane with the minimum dan- 
ger of injury to the plane. 

9. So far as I know, no trials have been made to 
determine the effect of oil on the water as of assist- 
ance in the getting away of a seaplane from water too 
rough to negotiate otherwise. It appears to me prob- 
able, however, that a destroyer ploughing through 
the sea at high speed and releasing at the same time 


a considerable quantity of oil might possibly flatten 
out the sea sufficiently to make practicable the get- 
away of a seaplane which could not otherwise ne- 
gotiate a getaway. I would suggest the desirability 
of experimenting in this direction, and, if this be 
found of assistance, the provision of the necessary 
means for oiling the water in the event the wind 
should increase, during the time of flight to a landing 
place, to such an extent as to make impracticable 
otherwise the getting away of a seaplane after 

10. It is evident that an all-night flight will be 
necessary. Presuming that the flight in question will 
take place some time after the first of May and before 
the end of June, it is evident that in these high lati- 
tudes a comparatively short period of darkness will be 
encountered. If chance should make it desirable to 
start this flight during periods of moonlight, this 
period of darkness will be still further reduced. In 
any case, there are two events which should be so 
arranged as to fall during daylight: One is landing 
near a stake boat for fuel replenishment; the other 
is the arrival and landing at destination in Bantry 
Bay. It seems evident that the starting time can 
be over several hours in the very early morning, or 
over several hours in the late afternoon, and that, 
therefore, a considerable portion of the day is avail- 
able for starting, and the necessity of flying all 
night will not impose any material difficulty. On 
account of the necessity of flying at night, however, 
stake boats should be provided with powerful flares 
which they can use, in addition to their searchlights, 
for indicating their positions, provided they lie within 
the passing areas at night. 

11. With regard to airplanes of the N.C. 1 type, 
the present situation is as follows : 

(a) Four flying boats of this type are under 
construction. Two have been completed, and 


the third one will be completed about the first 
of February. The fourth boat will be com- 
pleted about the middle of March. The first 
of these boats has had sufficient trials to indicate 
its suitability for the service proposed, and to 
indicate that the remaining boats will also be 
suitable for such a project. 

(b) Unless unexpected casualties overtake 
the N.C. 1 flying boats, it seems reasonable to 
presume that at least three of them will be 
available for this transatlantic flight by the 
first of May, which, it is presumed, would be 
the earliest date on which the flight in question 
could be started. It is, therefore, suggested 
that all four of these boats be flown at the proper 
time to St. Johns, and that of these four, the 
three in best condition, from every considera- 
tion, be started on the transatlantic flight when 
the hour arrives for the starting of this flight. 

(c) It appears to me that there is at least an 
even chance of getting all three of these boats 
across; better than a two-to-one chance of getting 
two of them across; and considerably more than 
a three-to-one chance of getting one of them 

12. In the event of the failure of any one or all of 
these boats to complete the distance, the chances are, 
of course, that the boat itself must be sacrificed. 
This does not, however, follow absolutely, and, under 
favourable circumstances, it might be possible to tow 
one of these craft back into port. In the event of 
failure to cross resulting in a forced landing of any 
one or all of these boats, total destruction upon 
landing being very unlikely, there seems little rea- 
son to doubt that the members of the crews would 
be saved. These boats should be provided with 
wireless sufficiently powerful for signalling to the 
nearest stake boat; should carry navigational ap- 


pliances sufficient for the location of their posi- 
tions; and even if unable to rise again after a forced 
landing will probably have two engines left in work- 
ing order, and be able with these engines to taxi to 
the nearest stake boat. Any one boat dropping out 
of formation and landing, would, of course, be re- 
ported by the others to the next stake boat passed, 
so that rescuing operations could be immediately 

13. Although, as stated above, a considerable num- 
ber of flights have been made already with the first 
of these boats, much data remains to be accumulated, 
and many flights should, if possible, be made before 
the transatlantic flight in contemplation is at- 
tempted. I do not consider that the most satis- 
factory propellers have been installed, and believe 
that a series of tests should be carried out for the 
determination of the most satisfactory propellers 
for use on this flight. Although much data has been 
collected during the last year regarding the running 
of courses at sea, it is believed that further experi- 
ments should be undertaken with various winds, 
running courses marked by stake boats at least one 
hundred miles apart, so that definite data may be 
secured as to the methods of running these courses, 
and the use which can be made of the information 
received from the stake boats regarding the direction 
of winds on the surface, and in the upper air. Drills 
should be carried out on fuelling at sea, in order to 
determine the best sizes of containers to be carried 
by the stake boats, the best methods of handling 
these containers, and the lengths of time which 
should be allowed in the schedule of the trip for 
fuelling operations. Trials should be made in fairly 
rough water to determine the effect, if any, of run- 
ning a high-speed destroyer ahead and oiling the 
surface of the sea, in order to assist in getting a boat 
into the air. Several sustained flights, of at least 


eight hundred to nine hundred miles, should be car- 
ried out with each one of the craft possibly to be 
entered in this flight, in order that the probable 
points of weakness may be indicated and strength- 

14. Upon the arrival of these boats at St. Johns, 
preliminary to the starting of the transatlantic 
flight, they should be equipped with new engines, 
carefully tested, and inspected for every possible 

15. It is presumed that the crew for each boat 
will be five men. All of these men should be naval 
pilots, two, at least, of them skilled in connection 
with the Liberty motor. Two men, at least, of each 
five should be skilled as aerial navigators. At least 
four of the pilots for each boat should, as soon as 
possible, be assembled at Rockaway Beach, or at 
Hampton Roads, and immediately trained in con- 
nection with the flying of these boats, and, in partic- 
ular, in matters of detail connected with the Liberty 
engine and with the power plant of these craft, and in 
aerial navigation and seamanship. It is not re- 
garded as necessary for the commanding officers of 
these craft to report for this duty more than six 
weeks in advance. 

16. These officers should, of course, be vol- 
unteers; should be in the most perfect possible phy- 
sical condition; and, other things being equal, should 
be of average weight. In order to provide for cas- 
ualties of any sort during this preparatory period, two 
or three additional officers should be detailed with the 
specific understanding that they are additional, and 
that they will start the flight only in the event of some 
other officers dropping out. 

17. There should also be detailed, as soon as boats 
are completed and delivered to handling stations, 
about twenty men of various ratings, in accordance 
with lists previously submitted to Operations, Avia- 


tion, by the Commanding Officer, Rockaway Beach 
Air Station, as a permanent handling and up-keep 
gang for each boat. These men should be carefully 
trained from now until the time of flight in their 
duties, and should be sent sufficiently ahead of the 
date of the flight to St. Johns, Newfoundland, to be 
ready for immediate work on these boats upon their 
arrival there. This work will involve the removal of 
the engines installed, installation of new engines, 
and the general overhauling, truing up, and testing 
of all features of the craft. With these men should 
be sent complete equipment of all items found neces- 
sary in the handling and up-keep of these craft. 
These items are several hundred in number, and data 
regarding them is now being accumulated at Rocka- 
way Beach. The provision of these items and 
their delivery at St. Johns, with the handling and 
up-keep crews, will require most careful attention, 
as, it is safe to say, they are, with few exceptions, of 
such a nature that they cannot be obtained in that 

18. Many special articles, like Thermos bottles, 
water containers, condensed foods of various kinds, 
chronometer watches, eiderdown sleeping bags, etc., 
etc., must be provided and installed. In addition, 
provision must be made for water flares for use in 
connection with navigation, for sounding balloons, 
and for hydrogen bottles, as well as for other things 
which will undoubtedly be found necessary. 

19. The subject has by no means been exhausted, 
but enough points have, I believe, been brought out 
to indicate the fact that very careful attention will 
be required from some organization working speci- 
fically on the details of this project, to prevent the 
oversight of some very important detail. As I told 
you several days ago, I have for some months had 
this project in mind, and have had my organization 
working on it. We are favourably located to con- 


tinue the problems involved; are being rapidly re- 
lieved of the major portion of our duties, due to the 
completion of aircraft contracts on which we have 
been engaged; and are, for the reasons cited, in a 
position to undertake, under the direction of a cen- 
tral planning committee in Washington, the organ- 
ization of this project, and the carrying out of the 
multitude of details involved. I shall be very happy 
to cooperate with you in anything, and to any ex- 
tent, in making this project a success. I believe the 
fact of our location in New York, outside the some- 
what distracting atmosphere of Washington, would 
make it possible for us to carry out necessary ar- 
rangements with less interruption than would be 
experienced in Washington. I shall be glad to sup- 
ply office space and office facilities to any one you 
care to connect with the project. Many of these de- 
tails are of such a nature that a considerable amount 
of time will be required for their successful solution, 
and it is my opinion that no more time than is abso- 
lutely necessary should be lost before attacking them. 
Progress in airplane tests and experiments, and in 
the provision of special articles required by aircraft, 
is so slow and tedious that very careful conserva- 
tion of the time remaining before the date at which 
this flight would become practicable should be ex- 

20. If you should care to call on me for assistance, 
I shall visit Washington at any time you elect, to dis- 
cuss with you and your planning committee the de- 
tails of the project, and the portion of these details 
you would care to have our attention for. 


About two weeks later the project was placed be- 
fore the Secretary of the Navy in the following com- 
munication from the Planning Committee. The 


Secretary's enthusiasm was immediately aroused, 
and his approval was promptly forthcoming. His 
support and encouragement of the project from 
then until its successful conclusion were unfailing. 

2-AH Ql 


068-A-25 f February 4, 1919. 

From: Chief of Naval Operations. 

To: All Bureaus. 

Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. 

Subject: Transatlantic Flight. 

Enclosure: (A) Copy of recommendation of Planning 
Committee on above subject with 
Secretary of the Navy's endorse- 
ment of approval. 

1. Enclosure "A" is forwarded for your informa- 
tion and compliance. 

2. It is especially desirable, in view of the many 
uncertain elements which may affect this project, that 
it be considered as "secret." 

/S/ J. M. McRBAN 





From: Planning Committee. 
To: Chief of Naval Operations. 
Subject: Transatlantic Flight. 


As early as 1914 a transatlantic flight was se- 
riously contemplated and Commander J. H. Towers, 


(then Lieutenant) was ordered by the Navy Depart- 
ment to observe the preliminary tests and experi- 
ments and to report upon the feasibility of the 
project. The war put an end to this special under- 
taking, but it had a marked effect in causing devel- 
opments in aviation, which have resulted in the 
construction of machines far superior to the origi- 
nal America. 

Now that the war operations have ceased, the 
attention of the aeronautic world has again turned 
to the transatlantic flight. It is known that the 
British have been considering this project for some 
time and have had experts studying the problem 
with the purpose of attempting its solution upon the 
conclusion of peace. The British have developed 
larger airplanes than any other nation, and it is 
believed that they are prepared to undertake the 
first transatlantic flight. As it seems probable 
that Great Britain will make every effort to attain 
the same relative standing in aerial strength as she 
has in naval strength, the prestige that she would 
attain by successfully carrying out the first trans- 
atlantic flight would be of great assistance to her 
in attaining the supremacy desired in aviation 

It is understood that France and Italy have also 
considered this project, and it is known that at least 
four independent efforts are being developed by pri- 
vate parties in this country. In view of the fact 
that the first successful airplane was produced in 
this country, and that the United States developed 
the first successful seaplane, it would seem most fit- 
ting that the first transatlantic flight should be car- 
ried out upon the initiative of the United States 
Navy. The accomplishment of this feat would give 
to the organization of the government accomplish- 
ing it a considerable amount of deserved prestige. 

It is considered most desirable in every way that 


this flight be accomplished in craft developed by the 
Navy Department and flown under the direction of 
officers ot the United States Navy. The facilities 
at the disposal of the Navy Department are such as 
to insure the proper carrying out of all plans so essen- 
tial to the successful accomplishment of a project of 
this nature. The successful accomplishment of this 
flight by the Navy will have an important effect in 
stimulating the progress of commercial aviation en- 
deavour. It will have the effect of calling up for 
settlement many important international questions 
involving aerial matters. 


In view of the limited equipment and cruising 
radius of the planes available, only four possible 
routes are considered, as follows: 

1. United States, Newfoundland, Greenland, Ice- 
land, England. 

2. United States, Newfoundland, Ireland. 

3. United States, Newfoundland, Azores, Portugal. 

4. South America to Africa. 

The first route is rejected owing to unsettled 
weather conditions and the inability to predict the 
conditions in these areas, the difficulty of basing 
patrolling forces, and the lack of suitable ports of call. 

The second route offers many advantages in that 
it will be a non-stop route across the Northern Atlan- 
tic, which is the real problem involved; but in view 
of the fact that it necessitates an over-sea flight of 
1,675 nautical miles (great circle distance from Cape 
Broyle Harbour to Bantry Bay) it is not considered 
practicable to cover this distance with the planes 
available without refuelling at sea. This would intro- 
duce many complications which would render it 
unwise to adopt this route, unless developments in 
seaplanes permit an extension of cruising radius. 


The third route offers the easiest solution, as its 
distances are shorter, areas of uncertain weather con- 
ditions least, it lends itself admirably to basing pa- 
trols, and is well within the zone in which the weather 
bureaus can make accurate predictions. 

The fourth route is rejected on account of the in- 
accessibility of the point of departure. 


There are available under the Navy Department 
several seaplanes capable of carrying sufficient fuel 
and equipment and with engines of sufficient reliability 
to offer excellent chances of success on the Azores 
route. The planes available at this time are the 
N.C. 1 type and the F-6-L type. 

The N.C, 1 is the largest seaplane developed by the 
Navy, and is equipped with three Liberty engines and 
has an estimated cruising radius of more than 1,400 
miles. Its wing span from tip to tip is 126 feet, and 


its over all length 68 feet SJ inches. This plane re- 
cently made a flight with fifty-one men aboard. It 
is designed to carry a crew of six men, and has a speed 
of 80 miles per hour. 

The F-6-L is a twin engine (Liberty) flying boat, 
103 feet 9i inches span, 49 feet 3J-J inches length, 
with an estimated cruising radius of more than 1,350 
miles. It is designed to carry a crew of four men 
and has a speed of 87 miles per hour. 

The cruising radius of each of these types can be 
improved by stripping them of all unnecessary gear 
and increasing the fuel supply. 


By the establishment of a proper patrol of the 
course, the danger to personnel can be practically 
eliminated. For this purpose there would be re- 
quired a number of destroyers, in order that they 
could be stationed a distance of about 100 miles 
apart to mark the course, and in order that at least 
one of them may be within helping distance in the 
event of emergency. 

By making a smoke column during the daytime 
and using searchlights during the night, these patrols 
would largely overcome the difficulties of aerial 

Additional Equipment 

In addition to the patrol vessels, mother ships 
would be required at the ports of call in order to 
furnish fuel, spare parts, personnel, etc., for the 
planes. The assignment of mother ships for this 
purpose is advantageous, as it does away with neces- 
sity for elaborate shore establishments at ports of call. 

In order to permit of repairs upon arrival at bases, 
seaplane lighters will be required, unless beaching 
facilities are available. 


Weather Conditions 

From a study of weather conditions prevailing 
over the North Atlantic during the various months 
of the year, and after a discussion of the project with 
officials of the Hydrographic Office and the Weather 
Bureau, it appears that the only suitable months for 
this flight are from April to September, inclusive. 
In view of the desirability of being ready to make this 
flight as soon as conditions are favourable, and in order 
to forestall independent projects of this nature, it is 
believed that plans should be made to start the flight 
about May 1st. Officials of the Weather Bureau 
believe that with the assistance of the patrol vessels 
and with the observations available from their own 
stations, it will be practicable to make very accurate 
predictions regarding weather and winds. 


By installing four K-12 engines in an N.C. 1 type 
of seaplane, a computed radius of action of 2,100 
miles can be obtained. 

These engines are built by the Curtiss Company, 
but up to this date have not passed a sufficient test 
to insure their reliability in a project of this nature. 
It is believed that these engines could be developed 
satisfactorily if proper action were taken. The suc- 
cessful development of engines for this equipment 
of tried reliability would make it practicable to 
attempt the direct flight from Newfoundland to 
Ireland, with excellent chances of success. 

Geared Liberty engines would give a much better 
performance in both types of planes and largely in- 
crease their radii. Proper development, however, 
has not been carried out on the geared Liberty motor, 
and its reliability for this purpose is not assured. 

The distances involved are as follows: 


Rockaway to Halifax . . . 540 nautical miles 

Halifax to Cape Broyle Har- 
bour, Newfoundland . . 485 nautical miles 

Cape Broyle Harbour to St. 

Miguel, Azores . . 1,320 nautical miles 

St. Miguel to Lisbon, Por- 
tugal 780 nautical miles 

Cape Broyle Harbour to Ban- 
try Bay, Ireland . . . 1,675 nautical miles 


The following definite recommendations are sub- 

(a) That the transatlantic flight be undertaken by 

the Navy Department. 

(b) That full preparations be made as soon as prac- 

ticable, in order that the flight may begin 
about May 1, 1919. 

(c) That the route chosen be from Newfoundland 

to Portugal, via Azores. 

(d) That the detachment making the flight consist 

of four of the best seaplanes available. 

(e) That a line officer of the Navy be detailed to 

command this expedition. That this of- 
ficer, under the direction of the officer in 
charge of Aviation Operations, be author- 
ized to select the personnel for this 
expedition, collect all data, assemble all 
material, direct experiments, and carry 
the entire project to completion. 

(f) That immediate action be taken to obtain reli- 

able data from actual performances of the 
types of planes selected for this flight, in 
order that accurate information may be 
available upon which to base the plans of 

(g) That the cooperation of the Commander-in- 

Chief of the Fleet and all bureaus con- 


cerned be directed in the expedition and 
completion of this project. 

(h) That intensive experimental development work 
be carried out immediately with K-12 en- 
gines and the geared Liberty engines, in 
order that information may be available re- 
garding the reliability of these machines. 

(i) That if the results of these developments demon- 
strate the practicability of equipping 
naval seaplanes with engines of great 
reliability sufficient to give them largely 
increased radius of action, the possibility 
of making a direct flight from Newfound- 
land to Ireland be further considered. 

(j) In view of the fact that the only logical point for 
the beginning of the flight is a port of New- 
foundland, which is a British Colonial 
port, and in view of the possibility that 
Great Britain contemplates an expedition 
of this nature at about the date recom- 
mended above, an awkward situation may 
result from the independent preparations 
being carried out by the two countries 
at the same port. In order to avoid any 
complications of this nature, and also in 
view of the fact that the United States and 
Great Britain have cooperated to a great 
extent in the development of the latest 
types of seaplanes, which has made this 
project practicable, it is recommended 
that information regarding the proposed 
flight be furnished the proper British author- 
ities, and it be suggested to them that if 
they contemplate an expedition of this 
nature, arrangements be made to start 
both expeditions simultaneously, in order 
that the patrols and other facilities may 
be utilized conjointly. 


(k) In view of the important role being taken by the 
United States in international affairs, and 
of the necessity of avoiding any possibility 
of giving offence to any of the great na- 
tions with which we are associated, atten- 
tion is invited to the desirability of sup- 
plying information in regard to this flight 
to governments of France and Italy also, 
in order that both or either of these coun- 
tries may have planes to participate if 
desired. It is believed that the prestige 
obtained by the United States Navy in 
thus initiating and making possible a great 
international flight of this nature will 
equal or exceed that obtained by attempt- 
ing the flight alone and all chance of inter- 
national jealousies will be avoided. 
/s/ J. T. TOMPKINS, 

Captain, U.S.N. 
/s/ J. H. TOWERS, 

Comdr., U.S.N. 
/s/ G. D. C. CHEVALIER, 

Lt. Comdr., U.S.N. 

1st Endorsement 

From: Chief of Naval Operations, 
To: Secretary of the Navy. 
1. Forwarded, approval recommended. 

/S/ J. L. McKEAN, 



1. Approved. 

2. Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet and the 
Bureaus of the Navy Department are authorized 
and directed to take such action as may be necessary 
to carry out the provisions of this plan for a trans- 
atlantic flight. /s/ JOSEPHUS DANIELS. 


The injunction to secrecy contained in these papers 
was not observed. This was due to a peculiar little 
slip in one of the cogs of the Navy Department ma- 
chinery. Although during the war secrecy had been 
maintained regarding all orders to officers, this policy 
had recently been reversed, and the before- war policy 
of allowing the newspapers to publish summaries 
of these orders had been reestablished. When 
Commander Towers was given duty in connection 
with the preparation for this flight, immediately 
upon the approval by the Secretary of the project, 
the issuance of his orders in secret was overlooked. 
Even a newspaper reporter knows when something 
falls on him. Orders for duty, "in connection with 
preparations for transatlantic flight," had some 
significance. They flocked to the Secretary's office: 
the cat was already out, concealment was impossible, 
and the Secretary told them the whole story. 

On February 17th, Admiral Taylor, in the letter 
quoted, directed the completion of the N.C. boats 
for the specific purpose of the earliest practicable 
transatlantic flight. 



February 17, 1919. 
O-Z-4 (A) 

To: Commander G. C. Westervelt, Construction 

Corps, U. S. N. 
Subject: Transatlantic Flight. 
Enclosures (herewith): 

(A) Copy of letter from Chief of Naval Operations 


dated February 4, 1919, No. Op-Air: 068-A-25 
with its enclosures. 

1. Your attention is invited to enclosure (A), out- 
lining a proposed transatlantic flight which has 
'been approved by the Secretary of the Navy. 

2. The present intention is to use the N.C.I type 
of flying boat for these flights. It is probable that a 
number of experimental changes will have to be 
made in the N.C.I boats already produced and in 
those now coming through production before the 
most satisfactory installation for making the trans- 
atlantic trip can be determined. The limited time 
remaining before the flight should be started makes 
it imperative that the heartiest cooperation of 
Bureau representatives and all others concerned be 
obtained, in order that the flight may be a success 
and reflect honour and credit to the Navy. The 
Bureau expects and requires this cooperation from its 

3. At the request of the Director of Naval Avia- 
tion, the Bureau is requesting orders for Commander 
H. C. Richardson, Construction Corps, U.S.N., de- 
taching him from his present duties and ordering him 
to report to the Chief of Naval Operations, Wash- 
ington, D. C., for further assignment in connection 
with the proposed transatlantic flight. While 
on this assignment Commander Richardson will be 
detached from the technical duty he has been per- 
forming under this Bureau. 

4. Anticipating that a number of changes must 
necessarily be made, and that considerable pressure 
must be exerted on the contractors to have the work 
on the N.C.I boats expedited, the Bureau hereby 
designates you as its official representative in New 
York and other points outside of Washington to 
handle matters concerning this project coming under 
cognizance of this Bureau. 

5. You are empowered to make changes in the 


N.C.I boats, or to authorize trials to be conducted, 
reporting to the Bureau what changes have been 
made and the results of trials. The Bureau wishes 
to make it plain that no changes under its cognizance 
are to be made on N.C.I boats, unless the change is 
authorized by the Bureau or by yourself acting for 
the Bureau. 

6. The Bureau should be kept fully informed by 
weekly reports, in triplicate, of the status of work and 
trials of the N.C.I boats, with particular reference 
to their being prepared for the transatlantic project. 

7. It is understood that the Bureau of Steam En- 
gineering desires to have collected considerable data 
on various power plant installations. This data will 
necessitate a number of trial runs before the boats 
are finally accepted from the contractor. The 
Bureau desires that the wishes of the Bureau of 
Steam Engineering in this matter should govern, 
and that the trials and collection of this data be 
expedited in every possible way. 

/s/ D. W. TAYLOR. 

Very great amounts of work remained to be done in 
completing these craft. They had been greatly ad- 
vanced since work under pressure had been resumed 
on them, but there was much to do. The N.C.2 had 
been completed and flown, and, as anticipated, the 
engine arrangement gave much advantage over that 
in the N.C.I. The Three and the Four were far from 
completion. If we could be certain of anything it 
was that much unexpected work would develop 
and that many unanticipated changes would be 
made. Immediate steps were taken, accordingly, 
to secure permission for overtime work, as it was cer- 
tain that the date on which we hoped to have every- 
thing ready, May 1st, could not be met on any other 


basis. From the date this permission was secured 
until the boats left Rockaway Beach on their flight, 
work never stopped before midnight, except, occa- 
sionally, on Sunday. The men of the Curtiss Engin- 
eering Corporation, who had a tremendous interest in 
the project^ and a determination to see America first 
across, and who stuck to the job under most wearing 
conditions; and the men of the Navy, of the Bureaus 
of Steam Engineering and Construction and Repair, 
who spent the long hours with them, in order that 
difficulties when met might be immediately sur- 
mounted, will always have the satisfaction of having 
"finished in time"! 

In changes and improvements on the N.C.I much 
weight had been added, and it was found, when ac- 
curate determination of gasoline consumption was 
made, that her flight radius was insufficient for a non- 
stop flight from Newfoundland to the Azores. It 
had also been found that the boat hull was much 
more efficient than we had anticipated, and we de- 
cided that an increase in engine power would increase 
the lifting capacity of the seaplane and the radius 
of action. 

This we determined immediately to try in two 
ways. On the N.C.I, engines with high-compression 
pistons were substituted for those of low compres- 
sion resulting in increased horsepower to the ex- 
tent of at least 125, and in an increase in weight-lift- 
ing ability of about 2,000 pounds. Experiments with 
propellers had also made available a more efficient 
propeller, and radius of flight was so increased that a 
non-stop flight to the Azores was practicable. 


The second method to be tried was the installation 
of an additional engine in the N.C.8. In order to 
make this installation as quickly as possible, and 
without disturbing other arrangements, these engines 
were placed in the wings in two tandem sets, an ar- 
rangement the accompanying photograph will make 
quite clear. Our estimates indicated that this fourth 
engine would raise the flying weight of these boats 
to about 28,500 pounds, and the radius of flight to 
1,550 or 1,600 miles. 

It soon became evident that we could not make the 
installation of a fourth engine in the other boats wait 
the trials of the N.C.2. We must decide without 
such trials whether or not to equip all boats in this 
way. At a conference in Washington this with 
other radical and extensive changes, the greatest 
of which was removing the pilots from the centre 
nacelle to the boat hull was decided upon. As 
the engine arrangement, however, we decided upon 
single wing engines and two central engines in tan- 
dem. This arrangement has a great advantage over 
a three-engine arrangement because of the fact that 
immediately after getting into the air flight can 
be continued on three engines, if necessary, whereas 
with three engines only, the boat would not for 
several hours be sufficiently lightened, due to gasoline 
consumption, for flight with two engines. 

Gasoline tankage was increased from six 200-gal- 
lon tanks to nine; wireless telegraph and telephone 
apparatus and wireless direction-finders were pro- 
vided and installed; many items of special applica- 
tion to the flight only were introduced. 


Our difficulties were many. As always in air- 
craft work, as has been mentioned previously, every- 
thing hindered, nothing helped. Late in March the 
N.C.I, at anchor in the bay, was driven ashore by a 
violent gale which buffeted her for three days. The 
wings on one side were practically destroyed. We 
had no spare ones; the time was insufficient for their 
construction; and our hope that we could start the 
flight with four boats was dashed. In this lay the 
doom of the N.C.2. It was decreed that she should 
lose her wings for the N.C.I. 

Except for delays, which always result in aircraft 
construction, and for the injury to the N.C.I by the 
storm, and to the N.C.I and the N.C. 4 by fire, as 
will be described in a later chapter, the N.C. boats 
have been remarkably lucky. Under the press of 
insufficient time, when they were being completed 
for the transatlantic flight, it was necessary to in- 
corporate important features on very scanty con- 
sideration. We had grown, however, to consider 
these boats lucky and took some very long chances. 
The engine arrangement is a case in point. This 
engine arrangement is absolutely unique and has 
never before been employed on a flying boat. Its 
details were worked out in a few days, and it was then 
installed. If it had proven unsatisfactory, or its 
details had not been effective, serious delay imperil- 
ling the whole project would have been occasioned. 
This chance had to be taken, and the luck of the N.C. 
boats held. Except for one or two changes of a 
minor nature this difficult installation, worked out 
in such a short time, and with no possibility of having 


sufficient time for thoroughly testing it, was all that 
could be desired. 

In all of the flights of the N.C. boats, no crashes 
were experienced, no lives were lost, and only one 
man was seriously injured. Here again luck played 
an important part. In February, the N.C.1, while 
on the handling platform, was very seriously buffeted 
by a furious gale which eventually tore the control 
column loose, due to the flapping of the control sur- 
faces, and injured the plane itself in a minor degree. 
This occurrence uncovered the fact that the principal 
bearings of the double control yoke, which were sup- 
posed to be one and one half inches in length, were, 
in reality, due to a series of remarkable mischances 
of manufacture and inspection, only one eighth inch 
in length. They had projected into metal plates to 
this depth instead of to the depth of one and one half 
inches as was intended, and upon this frail support 
had depended the safety of the N.C.I on the flights 
it had made up to this time. It may well be imag- 
ined how great would have been the catastrophe if 
these insufficient supports had failed when fifty-one 
persons were on board. The storm which tore them 
loose and exhibited them to the gaze of the world, 
with no damage other than the few slight injuries to 
the plane itself, was good luck of the first order. 

On another occasion the N.C.2, this time with 
thirty persons on board, was skimming along the 
water just on the point of taking to the air. From 
an altitude of 1,500 feet a smaller flying boat 
from the Air Station was practising the dropping 
of 220-pound depth charges against a target anchored 


in the bay. As the N.C.2 with its freight of humans 
passed this target, the bomb dropper of the other 
boat let fall a depth charge which struck the water 
within less than 150 feet of the N.C.2 and very 
severely shook up everyone on board, though without 
doing them any actual injury. If this depth charge 
had fallen 25 to 50 feet nearer, it would almost cer- 
tainly have destroyed the plane and would have 
caused the loss of a considerable number of the men 
on board. This occurrence was due, of course, to 
the carelessness of the bomb dropper, but good luck 
was with the N.C.2 in her successful passage through 
the ordeal. From descriptions of the flights across 
the ocean made by the N.C.1, N.C.S, and N.C4, 
will be realized the fact that the good luck which had 
attended these boats to such an extent was still with 
them. It may appear that the Goddess was nodding 
when they ran into fog and rain, but the experiences 
of the N.C.1 and the N.C.S after landing, the happy 
outcome so far as the crews were concerned, will prove 
that she awoke in time and again took charge of the 

The things we had expected to do, the changes we 
had contemplated making, were few in number com- 
pared to those we did do and did make. From the 
directors of the flight operations came innumerable 
requests, all of them entirely reasonable, for items no 
one had contemplated before. Captain Hall of the 
Coast Guard, who had charge of work for the Bureau 
of Steam Engineering, and I had most of them in- 
corporated and, of course, paid the penalty in being 
unable to complete the "Nancies" by May the first. 

Topical Press Agency, London 


Photograph taken immediately after their arrival in Plymouth while 
they are still in their flying clothes. Commander Read stands in front; 
behind, from left to right, are Lieut. J. L. Breese (reserve pilot engineer), 
Lieut. Walter Hinton (Pilot), Ensign Charles Rodd (Radio Operator), 
Lieut, E. F. Stone (Pilot), and Chief Special Mechanic, E. C. Rhodes 

International Film Service 


From left to right they are Lieut.-Commander Bellinger, M. A. Mitscher 
and L. F. Barin (Pilots), Lieut. H. Sadenwater (Radio Operator), Chief 
Machinist Engineer C. I. Kessler, and Reserve Pilot Engineer R. Christensen 


Some time previously to that date, however, we had 
been compelled to report that as the details required of 
us were so much more numerous than we had contem- 
plated when our original date was set that we would 
need an extra week. Actually the boats were com- 
pleted on May the 3rd, and on that day the N.C.I, 
the last to be completed, was turned over to Com- 
mander Towers. If some "Jinks" a night or two 
later had not tried to burn the One and the Four, our 
labours would have ended then. 

With the delivery of the boats to the flyers, the 
story of the design and building of the N.C. boats 
comes to an end. What happened then and after- 
ward let Commanders Read and Richardson relate. 






f AHE work of preparation for the Navy's at- 
tempt at a transatlantic flight can be divided 

JL into two parts first, the preparation of the 
seaplanes themselves, and, second, the preparation 
of plans for conducting the actual flight. The first 
of these tasks has been described at considerable 
length, and the description conveys some idea of the 
immense number of details that had to be worked out, 
the numerous tests that had to be conducted, and the 
many troublesome features that had to be corrected. 
The result was a type of seaplane that embodied the 
best characteristics of smaller flying boats and one 
that filled the crews with confidence that they would 
be able with ordinary luck to cross the ocean safely. 

We can take up now the second proposition, that 
of the preparation of plans for conducting the flight. 
These plans were made with a view to providing 
every practicable means of enabling the planes to 
keep their course and of aiding them in case of a 
forced landing at sea. This was to be no "do-or- 
die" effort. Though there must be, in a project of 
this kind, some doubt about the "doing," no one 
considered the "dying" as more than a very remote 
possibility any more than there would be in a flight 
from Chicago to New York. 



The plans were so complete and so carefujly laid 
that all of us were sure that we would be well looked 
out for in case of misfortune. In the first place, the 
choice of routes Newfoundland to the Azores and to 
Lisbon, Portugal was made because it appeared to 
be easiest of accomplishment, and therefore safest. 
The Newfoundland-Ireland route could not be fol- 
lowed, taking into consideration the fuel capacity 
of the N.C's, without favourable winds. The route 
chosen could be. 

Another route proposed was that from Rockaway 
to a point at sea at the limit of the flying radius; re- 
fuelling there from a ship and then continuing on to 
the Azores and Lisbon. There were several argu- 
ments against this route; doubt was expressed as to 
the practicability of replenishing gasoline and oil at 
sea except under ideal conditions, and the point was 
made that the longest leg would be started first, 
while to jump off from Newfoundland would allow 
an opportunity to eliminate defects that might show 
up on the comparatively short "hops" from Rocka- 
way to Halifax and from Halifax to Newfoundland. 
The northern route, via Greenland, Iceland, and 
Ireland, was not considered very seriously, because 
it is practicable for only a short period in the year. 

Three classes of ships were used: "Base ships," 
to be at the different stopping places, in order to pro- 
vide temporary quarters for the crews, to provide 
extra aviation mechanics, to assist in any repair work 
found necessary, and to carry gasoline, oil, and nu- 
merous tools, spare parts, and supplies that might pos- 
sibly be needed; "patrol" or "escort" vessels (de- 


stroyers) to be stationed at intervals of fifty miles 
along the course, to aid the seaplanes in keeping 
track of their positions and to render assistance if 
necessary; and "meteorological" ships (battleships, 
five in number) equipped with powerful radio out- 
fits and stationed at points about four hundred miles 
off the track to take and report weather observations 
in order to assist the official weather prophets in tell- 
ing us what to expect, especially in regard to the 

A great amount of detail work was entailed in 
getting all the odds and ends of special equipment and 
supplies together, in distributing them to the various 
ships and, in some cases, in fitting the ships so that 
they could take the materials. For this some of them 
had to go to a navy yard. Two small flying boats 
were sent on the Newfoundland base ship, Aroostook, 
in order to give the pilots a bird's-eye view of the rather 
restricted area in which the getaway would have to 
be made and to try the air while making the same 
course that would be used later in starting off the big 

This was a comparatively small matter, but navy 
yard work was necessary before the planes could be 
received on deck, for although they are "small" 
when compared with the N.C's, they were "big" 
when resting on the Aroostook's narrow deck, and 
are most unwieldy to handle. 

Besides the strictly aviation spare parts and sup- 
plies furnished the "base ships," all of the 68 de- 
stroyers used in connection with the flight had to be 
supplied with special apparatus for day and night 


signalling and with special radio apparatus for pur- 
poses of communication to and from the planes. 

Each destroyer that might be in the "night zone" 
of the Newfoundland-Azores leg was given star-shells 
to fire in its anti-aircraft guns . With the help of these 
shells, which are designed to be fired high in the air 
and then explode and ignite a parachute light of ap- 
proximately 800,000 candle power, and with search- 
lights, it was believed that the planes would be able 
to pick up the ships at night with little difficulty un- 
less the weather was thick. Then each meteorolog- 
ical ship (including every fourth destroyer) required 
a special outfit for obtaining detailed information 
necessary for the weather men to form their estimates 
of the situation. 

In order that the "air" navigator could obtain 
the best information as to his progress and his posi- 
tion at any time, he was furnished not only with a 
compass and the greater part of the equipment of a 
"sea" navigator, such as chronometers, sextants, 
charts, etc., but with other special devices for ex- 
ample, drift indicators to obtain the effects of the 
wind on the course being steered and on the speed; 
ground flares to drop into the water, which gave off 
a bright flame for night work or a heavy smoke for 
day work, in order to furnish a stationary point to 
sight on in using the drift indicators; and, finally, 
special short methods of working out positions by 
observations of the sun and stars. 

In taking these observations it is necessary to ob- 
tain the vertical angle between the horizon and the 
heavenly body observed easy on a ship in ordinary 


weather, but quite another matter from a seaplane, 
a& the horizon at an altitude of only a few hundred 
feet disappears entirely, lost in the haze. Therefore, 
our sextants were fitted with "bubble levels" and 
then they furnished their own horizon. It took 
many weeks before a satisfactory "bubble" was ob- 
tained which would give accurate results . 

Two radio sets were carried, one good only for 
short-distance work when on the water or when flying 
very low, and the other for longer distances, up to 
two or three hundred miles. As a matter of fact, it 
was found that this set was able to work at much 
longer distances, as will be described later. The 
"short-distance" set obtained its power from a stor- 
age battery carried in the hull and had a fixed an- 
tenna strung along the upper wings. The power 
for the "long-distance" set came from a small 
"streamline" generator clamped to one of the wing 
struts and fitted with a small propeller . This pro- 
peller was kept turning by the rush of air caused by 
the onward speed of the seaplane, in a manner similar 
to a windmill. The antenna was a wire two hundred 
and fifty feet long with a weight on the end; this wire 
was wound on a reel mounted in the after cockpit 
and was let out to trail astern only when suffi- 
cient altitude was attained to insure its not touching 
the water. The shutting off of the motors at 
the commencement of a glide to the water was 
necessarily a signal to the radio officer to "reel 
in," and as it proved later on, it was the only signal 

Besides the functions of the "battery" set, that 


is to say the sending and receiving of ordinary radio 
messages, telephoning could also be carried on be- 
tween the planes, as this set used the "continuous 
wave." Then there was a telephone system con- 
necting each member of the crew, and one of our 
radio experts had the bright idea of switching this 
system on with the interplane radio telephone, so 
that one skipper could talk directly with another 
skipper in another plane without having to depend 
on relaying through the operators. This scheme was 
found to be of not much practical value, however, 
during the flight, owing to the difficulty of shutting 
out the roar of the motors sufficiently to understand 
what was being said. I did use it very successfully 
in getting the time "tick" from Arlington for deter- 
mining the chronometer's error; there was, of course, 
no talking involved in this. 

The contingency of a forced landing at night was 
considered. Experiments were conducted, and flares 
to be set off by pushing a button on the pilot's "dash- 
board " were mounted under the bow in order to il- 
luminate the surface of the water in time for the 
pilot to " level-off " and effect a safe landing. The 
principal fault in this installation was the fact that 
the dashboard button was placed in such a prominent 
position that the " I-didn't-know-it-was-loaded" type 
of man just couldn't resist the temptation to press 
it to see if anything would happen. This occurred 
several times, once in the Azores while filling up with 
gasoline, with the filling hose less than two feet over 
the flares. Fortunately a quick use of fire extin- 
guishers prevented serious trouble. 


For food, coffee in vacuum bottles and sandwiches 
were provided, and in addition a number of "emer- 
gency rations." In trying the latter we came to the 
unanimous opinion that, while they undoubtedly 
had the theoretical food value required, with the 
minimum of weight and space (the label said so), 
it would require a decided emergency before the con- 
tainers would be opened. 

Our clothes were the standard Navy one-piece 
leather suits worn outside of anything the individual 
might choose to wear. One officer favoured wearing 
two of these suits, on the theory that if he was too 
warm he could "shed, " but if too cold he would only 
"shiver." Most of us wore our forestry green Naval 
Aviation uniform under the leather suit supple- 
mented with as much underwear as each thought 

Thus far I have touched only lightly upon the gen- 
eral disposition and movements of the assisting ships. 
This was all arranged by the commander of the de- 
stroyer force, Admiral Plunkett, the same officer who 
did such excellent work when in charge of the Navy 
"railroad guns" on the western front in France. He 
sent his Chief of Staff, Captain Laning, to Washington 
to arrange the details. Captain Laning arrived, ob- 
tained from Commander Towers the general out- 
lines of what was wanted, rolled up his sleeves, and 
plunged into the work with a vim that set the pace 
for the rest of us. 

The first thing he did was to give us twice as many 
destroyers as we had asked for. All the ships con- 
nected with the transatlantic flight project, of what- 


ever type, were to be turned over temporarijy to the 
commander of the destroyer force. It was therefore 
necessary to arrange for the movements of all of 
them. Not only was it necessary to allot each ship 
to its particular position, but dates of departure of 
each individual ship must be arranged so that it 
should arrive in its position in plenty of time. Ar- 
rangements had to be made for refuelling some ships 
that did not have sufficient steaming radius to make 
their stations and return, and, finally, very careful 
instructions were issued to cover exactly what each 
ship was to do and how and when. 

All probable contingencies were covered. As an 
example of this there is quoted below a few para- 
graphs from the "operation orders" issued to all 
concerned : 

"When a station ship receives a report that a plane 
has passed the next station to the westward it will 
commence 'smoking' in daytime and continue to 
'smoke' until the last plane passes or is accounted for. 
[This is done on oil-burning ships simply by restrict- 
ing the supply of air admitted to the boilers.] At 
night ships will 'torch' [a brilliant flame, at the top 
of the smoke pipes made by improper firing of boil- 
ers], 'and searchlights will be turned on at once and 
kept on, trained directly into the true wind ' [knowl- 
edge of the direction of the wind at night is of great 
value to the flyer] until planes have passed or been 
accounted for. 

"In case of mist or thick weather searchlights 
shall sweep the heavens in a vertical plane into the 
true wind until plane reports that the vessel has been 
sighted, when the beam will be steadied level. At 
night ships will also commence to fire star-shells from 


3-inch guns at five-minute intervals and continue 
firing until plane reports sighting. Star-shells to be 
fired to north on maximum elevation with fuses set 
for five seconds, unless plane requests otherwise. 

"Should a station ship be 'off station' during the 
flight, due to answering an S.O.S. or some other emer- 
gency, it will make smoke or 'torch' and fire star- 
shells, as above directed, but will inform planes as 
directed in special 'communication instruction,' that 
ship is out of position. 

"When an S.O.S. call is received from a plane the 
two station ships nearest the indicated position of 
the plane shall proceed to her assistance with all pos- 
sible speed, unless notified otherwise. Upon arrival, 
if repairs are possible, lend all assistance. If repairs 
are not possible group S.O.P. [senior officer present] 
shall designate one destroyer to take the plane in tow 
and proceed to the nearest port. If the plane is too 
damaged to be towed, the destroyer, after rescuing 
the personnel, shall use every effort to salvage the 
engines and equipment. 

"Utilize destroyers to the best advantage in an 
S.O.S. emergency. If an S.O.S. call comes at 
night destroyers will keep brilliantly illuminated 
while proceeding to the plane, will 'torch/ will keep 
searchlight sweeping the heavens, and will keep a 
bright lookout for Very signal, the colour of which will 
indicate the character of the forced landing and the 
condition of the plane. [Very signals are coloured 
stars fired from a special pistol. They give a light 
somewhat similar to those given off by Roman 
candles, except that they are brighter and travel 

"If while off station for any purpose a destroyer 
sights a plane in the air, it will signal the duty it is 
on and if requested will send to plane the true bearing 
and distance from the destroyer's then position to the 
nearest station," etc. 


The problem of getting all the reports through, 
especially those of meteorological observations, was 
worked out to the minutest detail. Practically all 
reports were by radio; and, as is pretty well known 
in these modern days, only a very few messages can 
be sent through at the same time in any certain area. 
To do even this requires a different "tuning" of the 
radio sets. Therefore, it was necessary that the in- 
structions include means of preventing the possibility 
of one ship "outtalking" another ship which might 
have an important message to deliver. 

Not to go further into details, it took seventeen 
pages of closely written official-size paper to tell the 
whole story of "radio communications" instructions. 
As the weather information desired was far more ex- 
tensive than the ships had ever before obtained, 
special instructions were issued to cover the operation 
of the meteorological apparatus and the codes neces- 
sary to transmitting in a few words the complicated 
data recorded. This alone took thirteen pages. 

The plan of the formation of the planes themselves, 
the rules for mano3uvring and for action in case of 
emergency, etc., were made as simple as possible. 
Events in the air happen quickly, and hampering 
the skipper and pilots with complicated orders would 
be worse than giving no orders at all. In a nutshell, 
the idea was to follow the leader and, when necessary 
to do otherwise, to do it first and report afterward. 
The seaplane flagship would lay the course and set 
the speed, the others, on each side, adjusting their 
movements accordingly. 

The contingency of suddenly running into fog 


without warning had to be provided for, and to elimi- 
nate any chance of a collision all planes were to start 
to climb out of it, and those on the flanks would shift 
their course slightly away from the "flag" to obtain 
a more comfortable distance from her. 

Thus, from the foregoing, some idea may be gained 
of the extent of, and the care employed in planning 
for, the project of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a 
"heavier-than-air" craft. As it appeared to be the 
first effort of its kind by any government, the prob- 
lem was to make the crossing with every safeguard 
provided against the loss of personnel or of material. 
In time of war a great deal would have been omitted 
and very few ships employed to assist. But in peace 
times the Navy always pursues the policy of "safety 

If the flight were successful, not only would an 
immense amount of valuable and much-desired in- 
formation be obtained concerning long-distance over- 
sea flying, but Naval Aviation, the Navy Department, 
and the whole country would receive the plaudits 
of the entire world for accomplishing a notable feat 
in the progress of the science; the mass of the people 
would be made to realize the importance of aviation 
as a valuable arm of the naval service; and the way 
would be blazed for others to follow and thus act to 
promote a commercial transatlantic service. 

To those who might say that no commercial com- 
pany would ever go to the expense of keeping such an 
extensive patrol, or of providing such complicated 
equipment, we would agree. We did not think it 
would be necessary after something was learned by 


actual experience. For instance: Several different 
methods were provided for finding and keeping the 
correct course to steer, but no one knew by experience 
which one would be most suited to the purpose. 
That was one of the things to learn on this trip. A 
second flight across would see a much simpler layout, 
with the elimination of all the safeguards except 
those found to be best and most reliable. The atti- 
tude of all concerned with the first transatlantic flight 
was fairly well expressed in an article written before 
starting the flight, from which the following para- 
graph is quoted : 

"Some flyers might say there was no sportsman- 
ship in flying across after making such thorough 
preparations and that anybody could jump from ship 
to ship when they are but fifty miles apart. Well 
and good, and all honour to any one who tries it alone, 
if he gets there or even if he makes an attempt. But 
we say that accomplishing a transatlantic flight in a 
two-seated, single-engine machine proves no more 
that it is a practicable proposition than a hit obtained 
from a blind shot in the dark proves the practicability 
of obtaining results with that method of target prac- 

The three seaplanes N.C.I, N.C.3, and N.C.4, were 
finally placed in regular commission by the com- 
mandant of the District on May 2, 1919. The 
ceremony was short but impressive. With the crews 
who were to make the flight drawn up in line the 
Chief of Staff read his orders from the Navy Depart- 
ment and gave the order to hoist the colours. To the 
music of the bugle the United States ensign, the jack, 


and the commission pennant were run up. Then 
Commander Towers read his orders, saluted, and 
assumed command of the N.C. Seaplane Division One. 
This was the first time in the history of the Navy 
Department that any seaplane had been placed in 
regular commission. 

The seaplanes were even then not completely 
ready for a start. Day and night work was still 
going on. Up to the time of the commissioning 
ceremony none of us knew in which seaplane we were 
to fly. Everybody worked for the common cause. 
Soon after commissioning, however, the detail was 
made, Commander Towers to command the N.C. 3, 
which therefore became the "flagship" of the di- 
vision; Lieutenant-Commander Bellinger to the N.C.I, 
and myself to the N.C. 4* The reason for my assign- 
ment to the N.C. 4 was because it was thought that 
she was slightly heavier than the others and my crew 
weighed about one hundred and fifty pounds less than 
either of the other two. As a matter of fact, I think 
it probable that the N.C. 4 was somewhat lighter, in 
view of the getaway made later at Trepassey Bay 
when we left the water very easily while the others 
had great difficulty. 

The matter of determining the comparative 
weights may seem to be a simple problem, but with 
such large weights involved, our crude methods for 
obtaining them and the difficulty of weighing the 
seaplanes under like conditions, a hundred pounds 
or more error might very easily creep in. 

All three planes were nearly ready when one night 
a fire broke out in the hangar housing N.C.I and 


N.C.4, caused by the ignition of gasoline by a spark 
from an electric pump. A little fast work with ex- 
tinguishers by the men still working there and the 
fire was put out, but not until the entire left wing of 
the N.C.I was burned beyond all hope of repair and a 
portion of the tail of the N.C.4 was badly scarred. If 
any one of several things had happened both of those 
seaplanes would have been permanently out of the 
running. As it was the Curtiss Company put every 
available man on the job, and some time during the 
following night both seaplanes were again ready, 
having had repairs that had been variously estimated 
to require from three to ten days! It was a remark- 
ably fine piece of work, probably the most remarkable 
single event hi the whole rather hectic period of prepa- 
ration or in the flight itself. 

The day before the flight was started, just as the 
N.C.4 was preparing to leave the beach for a trial 
flight, the second in its existence, and the first with its 
regular crew on board, the mechanician, Chief Special 
Mechanic Howard, had his left hand cut off by our 
pusher propeller. His nerve and grit were really 
marvellous. Scorning all assistance he jumped to the 
ground and, holding on to the stump, walked to the 
dispensary and reported for treatment. Of course 
he had to be left behind; he had our deepest sympa- 
thy, for he had been with the N.C's from the start, 
had worked tirelessly hi whipping the motor instal- 
lations into shape, and his whole heart and soul had 
been wrapped up in the transatlantic project. 

I have mentioned above the fact that the N.C.4 had 
been flown but once previously. The lack of suffi- 


cient time in the air for the purpose of working out 
small but possibly important defects and for the 
training of the crew in team work was the only 
unsatisfactory feature of the period of preparation. 
But all of us without exception wished to start at the 
earliest possible date, for we wanted to be the first 
across, and we thought that the flying time necessary 
to get us to Newfoundland would be a sufficient "shak- 
ing-down" period. 





THE actual start from Rockaway of the three 
seaplanes N.C.I, N.C.3, and N.C.4, was made 
on May 8th, at 10 :02 A. M., local time, under an 
overcast and dismal sky. A large crowd had assem- 
bled, composed of personal friends, well-wishers from 
the Curtiss Company, and the usual number of re- 
porters and camera men. These latter had for many 
days been following our every move with close at- 

The N.C.3, the division "flagplane" took off first. 
The N.C.4 was planing by the time the N.C.S was in 
the air and the N.C.I followed close behind. After 
gaining a few hundred feet, heading west, the N.C.S 
made a wide turn to the left and headed on a course 
to clear the southern coast of Long Island. The 
N.C.4 and the N.C.I cut in and gradually assumed 
their positions in formation. 

As we passed by the Naval Air Station at Rockaway 
all of us bade them a mental "good-bye" and 
fervently hoped that our comparatively untried 
motors would not let us down and force an ignomini- 
ous return. 

We started a gradual climb, following the "flag, J 



Until about 2,000 feet altitude had been attained, 
which was then held for a while. The formation was 
as follows: The N.C.3, flagplane, with Commander 
Towers, acting as guide; the N.C.I, with Lieutenant- 
Commander Bellinger on the right flank, not less 
than 400 yards nor more than three miles distant, 
maintaining about the same altitude; and the N.C.4, 
with myself in command, in a corresponding position 
on the left flank. 

The planes were not required to keep closely in 
position, but to endeavour to maintain steady courses 
and speeds as far as was possible, in order to simplify 
navigation. It can readily be seen that continuous 
changes in course and speed, in order to maintain a 
definite relative position with the flag, would cause 
a navigator an immense amount of work in keeping 
track of his exact position. Each boat must be 
navigated independently, for any time the necessity 
might arise of proceeding "on its own," or it might 
be necessary to make a bee-line to some position 
too far away to see. 

The formation, therefore, was elastic and the exact 
relative positions varied according to the circum- 
stances and as the judgment of the commanding 
officer dictated. On the stretch from Rockaway to 
Vineyard Sound it appeared that the commanding 
officers had considerably varying ideas, for the for- 
mation was extremely wabbly. However, between 
Vineyard Sound and Monomoy Point the three planes 
started to act more as a unit, and maintained a fairly 
accurate formation. We slowly left Nantucket 
Sound behind us ("slowly," for in spite of the great 


speed of an airplane, it always seems slow except when 
flying at very low altitudes) and passed over Mono- 
moy Point at 1 :20 P.M., headed for Nova Scotia. We 
were now started on our first real over-sea trip. 

We* were then at about 2,500 feet altitude, climb- 
ing gradually, following the N.C.3. Visibility was 
good, with a slight haze, and there was a slight wind 
against us. It was about one and a half hours later 
when the troubles of the N.C.4 began. The engineer 
reported that the oil pressure on the after centre 
engine had dropped to nothing and the spark had 
been cut. We were therefore proceeding under the 
power of the remaining three engines but making 
good speed at that. This incident made us a little 
uneasy, as now, if one of the other engines gave us 
trouble, a landing would be necessary. And that is 
what happened. 

The first of the "station" destroyers was sighted at 
2.05 p. M. well off the port bow. I changed course to 
pass over her and N.C.3 and N.C.I were soon lost 
sight of. Shortly after passing over this destroyer 
the other two planes were again sighted ahead and to 
starboard; they had also apparently shifted their 
course somewhat to the left. While gradually over- 
hauling them and when a little more than halfway to 
the next destroyer fifty miles farther along, a shower 
of water and steam was suddenly seen leaving the 
forward centre engine. That meant one thing a 
punctured crank case and only two good engines left. 
We could not hold up under the power of two engines, 
and so came down to the surface. The other two 
planes kept right on; afterward they said they had 


seen us turn (which was done to head the plane into 
the wind for a landing) but did not see us land and 
had thought we were heading back in order to land 
near the destroyer recently passed. 

The water was slightly rough but not so bad. We 
hoped then to locate the oil leak in the after engine, 
repair it, and get under way once more. After two 
hours' work this idea was given up; it was just as 
well, for there was no leak to find in that motor. 
We found out later that the oil pressure had failed 
on account probably of the chilling of certain oil 
pipes and that the oil had been lost when the forward 
engine had let go, for the oil systems of these two 
centre engines were linked together. So there we 
were with two good engines, out at sea, somewhere 
off Cape Cod. We had no success with the weak 
battery radio set. No destroyer heard us. Appar- 
ently they were too busy talking to each other to 
"listen in" for us. They were asking if we had been 
sighted, venturing opinions as to where we were, 
suggesting areas to search, and so forth. During 
the two-hour period of investigating the trouble I 
took an observation of the sun which indicated that 
our position was twenty miles farther out than I had 
figured by my reckoning, or eighty miles from the 
nearest shore. That was a little discouraging. 

At about 5 P. M. we started to "taxi" (making 
headway on the water by means of the motors), 
hoping to sight a destroyer, or, failing that, to con- 
tinue on to Cape Cod and make the Naval Air Sta- 
tion at Chatham. Two hours and a hah 6 after com- 
mencing the long, tiresome journey, a destroyer was 


sighted about ten miles to the north, and we headed 
that way, but the destroyer was looking for us in an- 
other direction and soon drew away. There was 
nothing to do but resume our westward course. 

It soon got dark, but it was a beautiful night, witli 
the moon nearly full, and the sea had smoothed 
down, so that after the first hour or two we made 
about ten knots. We were not much worried, for 
if the engines held out we were bound to make 
shore. They did hold out all through the night. 

The engineers and pilots relieved each other and 
took cat-naps in the bottom of the hull. The radio 
officer and I got an occasional wink of sleep. In fact, 
this was the only time I slept at all on board the N.C.4 
during the entire trip. 

Along toward morning we tried to intercept a 
steamer, the lights of which were sighted some dis- 
tance away. But she also was too fast for us and 
we gave up the chase. 

At one time both engines suddenly stopped and 
remained so for more than twenty minutes; then the 
starboard engine was started again and we turned cir- 
cles for twelve minutes more, trying to start the port 
engine. That one finally listened to reason, not to 
mention the flowing tributes of the crew, and con- 
sented to continue its work. We sighted our first 
lighthouse on Cape Cod at 5:25, then another one, 
and just as it grew fairly light we arrived off the 
Naval Air Station at Chatham. Two seaplanes from 
that station were just starting out to look for us. 
Their mission was accomplished almost before it had 


Just as we arrived off the entrance to the narrow 
and winding channel to wait for a tow, the oil pres- 
sure in one of the engines that had been running all 
night dropped down, but we did not care. That 
good old engine had done its work. That same 
engine took us later all the way to Halifax and Tre- 
passey, then to the Azores, and finally to Lisbon and 

It was not long before we were tied up at the 
Chatham station. The officers and men of that 
station turned to with a will and fixed us up finely, 
both as regards our personal comfort and the wel- 
fare of our ship. They took out our broken-down 
motor, gave us a good one they had, and installed it 
for us. They did numerous other necessary small 
jobs and by the afternoon of the second day, the 
10th, N.C.4 was ready once more to battle with the 
elements. Unfortunately, however, the elements 
were not ready. A forty -mile gale set in blowing 
directly from Halifax to Chatham, and worse than 
that it kept on blowing. It did not stop until the 
afternoon of the 13th. During this tedious wait we 
were encouraged from time to time by despatches, 
stating that weather conditions on the Newfound- 
land-Azores leg were unfavourable; that meant that 
N.C.I and N.C.3, which had made quick trips to 
Halifax and then on to Trepassey, would not leave 
immediately. We would not have blamed them if 
they had, for ideal weather conditions for the long 
stretch between Newfoundland and the Azores were 
so unusual that it would be unwise to let a good 
chance slip by. 


On the 13th, with good weather promised, a day- 
light start was planned for the 14th. Then a starter 
on one of the motors broke in testing out. There 
were no spares at Chatham. The Rockaway Air 
Station was called on the 'phone and within three 
quarters of an hour had a seaplane headed for Mon- 
tauk with two starters on board. Meantime Chat- 
ham started another seaplane to Montauk as a relay; 
unfortunately, before getting into the air, this plane 
ran full tilt on a sand bar. Then a blimp was got- 
ten ready and started out. Twenty minutes after 
the blimp had left, a call came in from New York 
that the Rockaway seaplane had arrived at Mon- 
tauk and was very anxious to come right on through 
to Chatham! I replied: "Fine, go to it." It was 
then dark but with a fine moon and I knew that one 
of the pilots was well acquainted with Chatham's 
winding channels. After getting the plane all ready 
to receive the starter, we turned in to await develop- 
ments. The seaplane arrived at 12:30 A.M., and in 
went the starter. At daylight we were ready. The 
poor old blimp returned from its wild-goose chase at 
about the same time. 

Due to minor troubles developing we did not 
finally get started until 8:14 A.M. But we left with a 
good strong wind in our favour. We picked up each 
of the three destroyers in turn that were stationed 
between Chatham and Nova Scotia and finally hit 
Seal Island square, then skirted the coast and ar- 
rived at Halifax after a run of three hours and fifty- 
four minutes from Chatham Bar, at an average 
speed of eighty-six knots. The first leg was at last 


accomplished and the Baltimore received us with 
open arms. They told us the cheering news that 
N.C.1 and N.C.3 were still at Newfoundland. "Now 
for a quick run to Trepassey and perhaps we shall 
catch them yet," was our thought. 

On this first leg the radio officer enjoyed himself 
by listening to messages from all around and by send- 
ing some on his own account. Before making Seal 
Island a message of inquiry was received from Assist- 
ant Secretary Roosevelt. I replied immediately 
with our position and speed. A few minutes later we 
received word that it was exactly three minutes from 
the time of Mr. Roosevelt's filing the message in 
Washington to the time of his receiving my reply, 
which constituted a world's record the first pat 
on the back, most welcome after our discouraging 

We were greatly encouraged as a result of this 
trip. We were now out of the United States and 
much nearer the "jumping-off" place in Newfound- 
land. The power plant had functioned so well and 
we had picked up the station destroyers with such 
regularity and with so little trouble that our confi- 
dence in the machine and ourselves was considerably 
increased, and we thought that at last our bad luck, 
which had gained us the name of the "lame duck,'* 
was over. 

It had been a very easy and comfortable passage 
thanks to the roominess of the hull. I generally sat 
in the extreme bow on a small box with a soft life 
preserver as a cushion, in such a position that I. could 
look ahead or to one side, but at any time I could 


shift my position to a seat rigged in the bottom of the 
hull just aft of the box and could stretch out or even 
lie down if the spirit so moved. The others, too, had 
plenty of room; there was no occasion for having 
an arm or a leg fall asleep. 

At Halifax, the weather still held good and we 
planned to start early the next morning for Tre- 
passey. The structure of the plane and the power 
plant were given careful attention. The "low-com- 
pression" motor installed at Chatham had vibrated 
considerably and the two wing motors had done 
some "missing" due to dirt in the carburetors. The 
missing was easily corrected, but if we were to take 
the time necessary to replace the Chatham motor 
we were afraid that word would be received from 
Newfoundland that the other planes had started for 
the Azores. We therefore did what could be done 
in the short time available, refuelled and re-oiled, and 
set out the next morning with the blessings of the 
Baltimore's officers and men. 

Things went well for a few minutes, then the oil 
pressure in that same centre forward engine started 
to fall. We headed for the smoother water near 
shore and landed eighteen miles from Halifax to in- 
vestigate. The oil trouble was corrected, but when 
about to start again we found more jobs to be done. 
In such a new installation as this it was to be ex- 
pected that more or less dirt and foreign matter 
would have collected in the gasoline lines and not 
had opportunity to work out thoroughly. A piece 
of rubber was found in one of the gas leads to a 
motor that had been starving, carburetor jets were 


cleaned out, and a new spark-plug was found neces- 
sary for a cylinder that had refused to fire. 

At last, at 12:45 P.M., Halifax time, we once more 
took off, and much to our delight found every cylin- 
der hitting as it ought to hit. This time we made 
no other stop until Trepassey appeared beneath us. 

The run was uneventful, varying winds were ob- 
tained sometimes of greater velocity, but fortunately 
mostly in our favour as the weather forecaster on the 
Baltimore, who was Professor McAdie (also Lieu- 
tenant-Commander in the Naval Reserves and 
Superintendent of the Blue Hill Observatory), had 
predicted. During the 170-mile run from Cape 
Breton Island to St. Pierre off Newfoundland the wind 
blew strong and sent us along at a speed of about 95 
knots or 109 miles per hour at times. Our friends, 
the destroyers, were picked up regularly. I ex- 
changed messages of greeting with several of the skip- 
pers who were classmates of mine at the Naval 
Academy. It was a comforting feeling to realize 
that Uncle Sam's most efficient men were standing 
by, ready to extend a helping hand in case of trouble. 
We were maintaining about 3,000 feet and once 
or twice passed over and through light, fleecy lumps 
of clouds, but these never lasted longer than a 
few minutes; for the most part, visibility was very 

After passing St. Pierre the change of course nec- 
essary to head us for our destination brought the 
wind almost directly astern, and we fairly burned 
the air to Trepassey. The temperature had been 
gradually falling and icicles were forming on the 


struts. Whenever I stood up and leaned forward 
in order to get a reading from the "drift indicator," 
the icy blast that stung my face and hands was a 
temptation to abandon the instrument and guess at 
our drift. I was wearing two suits of heavy flannels, 
a flannel shirt, a jersey, the regulation aviator's 
uniform, and over all our heavy -lined leather flying 
suit it was none too much even when sitting down 
in the hull out of the* wind. 

Some of the others later said that they were becom- 
ing chilled through, but this condition did not last 
long as we soon rounded the point to the south of 
Trepassey and headed up the bay. 

As we were manoeuvring for a landing N.C.I 
and N.C.3 were sighted on the water taxiing into 
the inner harbour. They were caught at last! 
They had planned to start for the Azores without 
us but failed -to get off. We were saved by a 
hair from being left behind. It was found after- 
ward that too much gasoline had been put in, 
which increased the weight so much that the planes 
refused to lift. 

Congratulations were showered on us and we were 
very happy to be with "the crowd" once more and 
for the chance to go along. No longer the "lame 
duck," all of us were again on an equal footing. 

Rapid work was done on N.C.4 and good work, 
as was evidenced by the remarkable run to Horta. 
A fine new motor replaced the centre forward one 
that had been installed at Chatham and that had 
given us so much anxiety. The whole oil and gaso- 
line systems were carefully cleaned, three new pro- 


pellers were put on, and we were ready just in time 
to make the big hop with the others. 

Most of this work was done by the detail that had 
been sent up with the Aroostook. The N.C.4 crew 
took a good night's rest in order to be ready for the 
next day's start. 



I HAD been privately hoping for one more day in 
which to work on the plane in order to assure 
ourselves that all parts were functioning as they 
should. But the aerographic officer in plain English, 
the weather forecaster informed us that conditions 
all the way to the Azores would be unusually good, 
and that a change would probably occur if the start 
were postponed for another twenty -four hours. He 
was right, except that, as will be seen later on, the 
change came sooner than expected a storm sneaked 
in from a quarter unguarded by any one of our 
"meteorological " battleships. 

In starting out on the next leg, the longest of all, 
about 1,350 nautical miles to Ponta Delgada with a 
sub-fuelling station at Horta, 1,200 miles away, the 
fact that we had a new and untried motor just in- 
stalled gave us some uneasiness. The start was de- 
layed somewhat by trouble in getting that motor 
going, but finally, in the late afternoon, all three 
planes, N.C.3, N.C.4, and N.C.I, were taxiing around 
Trepassey's sheltered waters allowing the motors 
and complicated systems of piping to warm up. 
This was on the 16th, the day after the N.C.4's ar- 
rival. Then N.C.8 started out, and N.C.4 immedi- 
ately shot on full power. We soon saw that N.C.S 



had given up the attempt to get off, but by that time 
N.C.4 was planing on its step, very evidently ready 
to take the air, and it struck me as a fine opportunity 
to give our new motor, and, in fact, the entire power 
plant, a preliminary try-out during the time neces- 
sary for N.C.3 to return for another attempt. I 
therefore gave the pilots a signal to keep going and 
in a few more seconds we were bouncing along the 
nearly spent swells entering the harbour, then with 
one final, easy leap we stayed in the air. To the 
great delight of the whole crew, everything func- 
tioned perfectly and the new motor ran smooth and 
sweet and delivered its full quota of power. For 
eighteen minutes we flew over Trepassey and Mutton 
bays and then, as N.C.S appeared to be waiting for 
something, we again landed and once more stood by 
for a start. We had a new feeling of confidence now 
in our plane. The chance of having to land soon 
after starting, as had been done outside of Halifax, 
seemed quite remote. A landing outside here would 
have been most unpleasant, as the thirty-mile wind 
had kicked up a fairly rough sea, and a forced landing 
in that water did not mean simply the effecting of 
minor repairs and another getaway. It meant to us 
a probable abandonment of the whole project. 

At last N.C.S, having put out one of her crew 
and certain weight-producing material, made a second 
attempt, this time a successful one. N.C.4 followed, 
and at 10:05 G. M. T., or about 6:00 p. M. local time, 
of May 16th, she again took the air, this time to stay. 
N.C.I was still plowing the water of Trepassey Bay 
when lost to sight behind a hill, but she succeeded 


in taking off, and later I saw a speck high up in the 
western sky indicating that all three of us were on 
our way, with the hope and expectation of sighting a 
small island sometime the following day, more than a 
thousand miles away and across a white-capped sea. 

It was cool, but, dressed warmly, most of us were 
comfortable; the wind appeared to lessen in strength 
somewhat and the sea, dotted with icebergs, did not 
look very rough. N.C.3 kept very low on the water 
for a half hour or so while we maintained about 600 
feet. As the light faded she was hard to see against 
the dark background of water; then she climbed a 
little, and the two planes were soon flying on the 
same level, with the outlines of each appearing dis- 
tinctly to the other. N.C.4 slowly drew ahead of 
the "flagplane" in spite of throttling down as much 
as the pilots dared, for we had to keep up a good 
speed in order to maintain our altitude and to retain 
good control in the rather uneasy air. All sailors 
know how much more quickly a boat responds to the 
rudder when its speed is increased. It is the same 
with an airplane; an airplane becomes very sluggish 
in answering the controls when travelling slowly, 
and the manual labour of operating them in order to 
keep the plane straight and on an even keel is in- 
creased considerably, especially when "bumpy air" 
is encountered. When near the first destroyer mark- 
ing our course, N.C.4 made a complete circle, 
rounded up near N.C.3, and from then until she 
was lost in the dark we managed to hold our correct 
relative position. A little later we turned on our 
running lights, a white light at the leading edge of 


the upper wing on the centre line, and green and red 
lights on the starboard and port outboard struts. 
A radio was sent to N.C.3 requesting that her lights 
be turned on; later we learned that they would not 
work. I could catch only occasional glimpses of a faint 
light which must have been on the instrument board. 

As the outlines of our "flagplane" grew dimmer 
and more indistinct, I began to realize what a hope- 
less proposition it would be to attempt to maintain 
contact with either of the other planes all through 
the night. N.C.1 had long since been lost sight of. 
Up to this time I had merely followed, and changed 
altitude, speed, and course to conform to the move- 
ments of the leader, leaving it to him to direct our 
movements in order to pass near the destroyers. 
Now it was evident that we would soon be "on our 
own." Well, we had made the runs from Chatham 
to Halifax and from Halifax to Trepassey alone, 
thanks to our troubles and delays; why shouldn't 
we make this alone? At 11:55, one hour and fifty 
minutes from Trepassey and while still able barely to 
distinguish the silhouette of N.C.3, course was 
changed slightly to the left as my reckoning had put 
us to the south of the line. N.C.3 was immediately 
lost to view, and N.C.4 was to all intents and pur- 
poses acting singly with 1,185 miles yet to go. 

At this time it was very dark except for the stars. 
These, however, were of great assistance to the pilots 
in keeping the plane level and on its course. The 
engines were hitting on every cylinder. There werQ 
no mufflers fitted, so that the exhaust flame could be 
seen, and it was most reassuring to see the flame 


shooting out regularly from each exhaust valve with- 
out missing a stroke. The oil pressure, which was 
normally at thirty to forty pounds by gauge and 
which had given us trouble at intervals previously, 
held up perfectly. The water temperature of the 
four radiators could not be improved. In short, 
everything about the big machine seemed to be on 
its best behaviour, and as time went on our confi- 
dence increased to such an extent that our entire 
thoughts were centred on our own individual duties. 
The pilots took turns at the controls for stretches 
of thirty to forty -five minutes; the one off duty 
sometimes remained in his seat, sometimes squirmed 
down in the fairly roomy space forward of the seats 
and aft of the bulkhead on which my chart board 
was slung. He would occasionally catch a few winks 
of sleep; the "off" engineer also slept a little. The 
radio man had no relief he had to stick to his job; 
but he found his job of such absorbing interest that 
the thought of sleep never entered his head. The 
Commanding Officer and navigator, myself, felt not 
the least inclination to sleep, even had there been an 
opportunity. There were too many changes of 
course to be made on account of slight changes in 
wind currents and on account of the varying ideas 
of the destroyers as to their correct positions. They 
were never very far out, but there was bound to be 
a considerable variation from the straight line ex- 
tending from off Trepassey to Corvo in the Azores; 
a fresh breeze, unknown currents, and no opportunity 
of verifying position since twilight made that in- 


Then, too, there was always the possibility of being 
forced to make a landing. For this contingency I 
was not depending entirely on the bow flares de- 
scribed before, for we had had no opportunity to prac- 
tise landing the N.C's at night by means of the flares, 
and there was a certain element of doubt as to their 
efficiency. Therefore, it was my intention at any 
sign of trouble to grab a Very pistol kept right at my 
hand and, when the altimeter showed our near ap- 
proach to the water, to shoot stars downward and 
forward. By this means a very close estimate of 
our height could be obtained. Happily, however, 
neither the flares nor the stars had to be called into 

At 12:19 G. M. T. (Greenwich mean time will be 
used hereafter except when otherwise stated) in the 
morning of the next day, the 17th, the first faint 
signs of the rising moon were seen. As it grew lighter 
the nervous tension relaxed even more the pilots' 
work was less difficult, and a forced landing in case 
of necessity would be easier of accomplishment. 
About this time the air, which had at no time been 
very quiet, increased in bumpiness. We were then 
at about 1,000 feet. A slow climb was started to 
1,800 feet, but the air at that altitude was as turbu- 
lent as that lower down, and as our speed appeared 
to have dropped considerably (obtained by checking 
times of passing destroyers) we later returned to our 
former altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet. The air re- 
mained rough all through the night and our machine 
continued its wallowing, plunging course. 

At 12:41, before the moon had had a chance to add 


much light to the situation, another plane was sighted 
close aboard on the port side. It was in sight nearly 
ten minutes and came too close for comfort. A veer 
to the right, a few minutes' climb, and they were 
again lost to view. This was our last sight of any 
of the other planes of the division, until N.C.3 was 
later seen in the harbour of Ponta Delgada in a half- 
wrecked condition. 

The destroyers marking our course were checked 
off on the chart one after the other. The star-shells 
which they fired from their anti-aircraft guns were 
always sighted at great distances. In several cases 
a shell of one destroyer would be seen when we were 
passing over the next destroyer to the westward, 
fifty miles away. Then after an interval the search- 
light would be seen, and finally, as we approached at 
a speed of about eighty-five knots, the ship's deck 
lights would appear. If the lights were nearly ahead 
a sufficient change in course would be made to pass 
directly above, but if too great a change would be 
required, I would assume that the destroyer was in 
its exact position, estimate our distance from her, 
and lay a new course direct for the next one. All 
destroyers had large, illuminated figures on their 
decks to indicate the number of their station, but as 
all of the ships were sighted one after the other it was 
never necessary to verify these numbers. The 
searchlights, laid directly into the wind at the surface, 
showed that the breeze was still with us at each suc- 
cessive station. 

In this manner the night passed. At 5:45 came 
the first indications of dawn. The motors were still 


thundering on with not the least appearance of ever 
wishing to stop. The radio officer was having the 
time of his life, picking up messages from places as 
far distant as Bar Harbour; the last one received was 
distinct at 1,330 nautical miles. He talked with 
Cape Race, Newfoundland, and sent, via the operator 
there, a message of greeting to his mother in the 
States when we were 730 miles away. He reported 
that N.C.l's radio was working very well, but that 
N.C.S's was weak. From intercepted messages it 
appeared that N.C.I was still behind us but that N.C.S 
was ahead. Later it developed that we were leading 
the procession; the mistake had been made on ac- 
count of N.C.S calling destroyers considerably 
ahead of her own position instead of the ^nearest 
one. Each destroyer would broadcast our passing. 
This message was flashed to the base ship in the 
Azores and relayed to the Navy Department at 
Washington so that the Department was kept in 
touch with the progress of the flight. 

As the light was increasing I suddenly remembered 
that I had eaten nothing since lunch of the day before. 
A swig of hot coffee from our vacuum bottle hit the 
right spot, and the sandwiches were excellent, but 
one of them was enough. A small piece of chocolate 
for dessert, and my first transatlantic air meal was 
finished. We all find that on these long trips we are 
neither hungry nor thirsty; we throw most of the 
sandwiches away at the end of a trip, and, although 
a five-gallon tin of water is always carried, the tin 
remains practically full until our arrival in the next 
port. The absence of hunger and thirst and of any 


desire to sleep is probably an effect of the continuous 
nervous tension under which we undoubtedly labour, 
although as a rule we do not realize we are under any 
tension at all except when unusual and dangerous 
conditions are met. In fact, it became rather mo- 
notonous flying hour after hour over waves that look 
exactly alike and never seeing anything except an 
occasional destroyer. 

The intercommunication set between members of 
the crew was not very satisfactory. The pilots had 
given it up entirely and donned more comfortable 
helmets. As my telephone helmet fitted well, I still 
retained it, and occasionally "Radio" and I could 
make each other understand messages of a simple 
nature. If there was anything unusual, however, 
we would exchange notes, using one of the engineers 
as messenger, and occasionally I would squirm aft 
along the passageway, by the gasoline tanks, to the 
after compartment, where we would converse by 
means of paper and pencil. The engineer, too, would 
report by note and his messages were always cheer- 
ing all parts functioning properly with a normal 
consumption of gasoline. 

At about 6 :45 a ship was sighted which at first was 
mistaken for a destroyer but which proved to be a 
freighter. She was crossing our course, and without 
any change we passed directly over her. Only one 
other merchant ship was sighted during this run. 
The ocean wore its usual deserted look. If it had 
not been for the destroyers we would probably have 
felt lonesome. 

Up to this time, after passing Number 13, the 


flight had proceeded so satisfactorily, and so nearly 
in the exact manner planned (except that we were 
alone instead of in formation), and the destroyers 
had been passed with such clocklike regularity, that 
it appeared now only a matter of time and ticking off 
the remaining seven ships, picking up Corvo, then 
running by Destroyers 21 to 23, passing between Pico 
and San Jorge and by Destroyers 24 and 25, and 
finally picking up San Miguel. Fate had other 
things in store for us. 

Numbers 14 and 15 were checked off in regular 
turn, the latter at 7:45. Ten minutes later there 
seemed to be a rain of considerable area ahead. 
Course was changed to port for a few minutes to 
dodge the thickest part, but we soon saw that in- 
stead of rain, light lumps of fog were forming and 
blowing along in the same direction that we were 
making. Our former course was resumed and we 
passed through the foggy area at 8 :12. This did not 
impress us very strongly as we came again into nearly 
clear air and easily picked up Destroyer 16 a little 
later. We passed her at 8 :30. She was the last one 
to be sighted until we picked up Number 22 sometime 
later on. Visibility grew less and less and we missed 
Number 17, although little fog was encountered until 
about 9 :40. Then it began to show us what real fog 
was like. At 9:45 we entered an impenetrable layer 
as thick as pea soup. The sun disappeared entirely. 
I motioned the pilot to climb, hoping to get above it, 
but the pilot was just beginning to have troubles of 
his own. In endeavouring to watch too many instru- 
ments he had allowed one whig to drop. I immedi- 


ately sensed that something was wrong but was help- 
less to tell just what it was or how to correct it. We 
had lost all sense of direction. The wind increased in 
my face, which meant that the speed of the plane had 
increased correspondingly. We were going twenty 
miles an hour faster than we should be. An oc- 
casional momentary glimpse of the sun revealed the 
fact that we were in a sharp turn. I glanced first at 
the compass it was spinning like a top; then at the 
altimeter 1,200 feet. At least we were still holding 
our altitude. Was the pilot never going to get 
control, or were we going to spin more and more and 
finally end in a nose dive for the water? Then the 
sun and patches of blue sky appeared once more, the 
big machine straightened, and as the pilot pulled her 
back we shot up out of the fog bank into clear, warm 
air, once more masters of the situation. 

Immediately our former course was resumed, and 
we flew on, keeping just above the layer of white, 
billowing fog, which, with the sun shining on it and 
streaks of blue sky in the distance, was strikingly 
beautiful. The sky above us became more and more 
cloudy; at the same time the fog bank below was 
rising, so that it was necessary to climb almost con- 
tinuously to keep in clear air. 

We were sandwiched in between the fog underneath 
and the clouds overhead. Occasional rifts appeared 
through which the water could be seen, and the drift 
meter indicated that we were being set to the south. 
Our course was corrected accordingly but favouring 
slightly a course south of the one originally laid 
down, The Island of Corvo was very small, but 


there was Flores, a bigger one to the south of it; it 
seemed better that any error in our direction should 
not be to the north, as there was nothing but the 
broad ocean in that direction. Several times it be- 
came necessary to change course or reduce altitude 
to pass around or under a thick cloud in our path, 
but an average altitude of about 3,000 feet was 
maintained all the latter part of the time. 

I then began to wonder how we were going to come 
out of all this uncertainty. Was this fog going to 
last indefinitely? The islands of the Azores were 
high and perhaps we might sight one of them over the 
fog. Pico was more than 7,000 feet; I did not know 
then that Pico is always covered with thick clouds 
except in the clearest sort of weather. We still had 
several hours of gas and the motors were running 
beautifully, but they could not keep on going forever. 
Would we pick up some one of the islands and find 
shelter in smooth water to leeward, or were we in for 
another experience like that off Chatham, only very 
much worse? 

At 10:40 the fog was just under us at about 3,000 
feet, and thinking that it might have lifted from the 
water inquiry was made by radio of Destroyer 19 
concerning visibility conditions at the surface. The 
reply came in "thick fog." Then Number 20 was 
called; his reply was "heavy mist." Then we tried 
21, which was some distance ahead; he came back with 
"10 miles visibility." At last we had something to 
encourage us. Perhaps, if we kept on going, we could 
get out of this mess. A light, stinging rain was en- 
countered for a few minutes, but that soon passed or 


rather we passed by the rain, and the air again was 
fairly clear. The minutes ticked by. It had been 
getting thicker to the left of our course, but to the 
right there was still a streak of blue sky showing be- 
tween the fog layer and the cloud layer. 

Then suddenly, at 11 :27 or nearly three hours after 
passing the last destroyer sighted, while flying at 
3,400 feet altitude, we saw down and on our port hand 
a tide rip through one of the rifts in the fog that had 
of late become less frequent. The water on the far 
side was slightly darker than that on the near side. 
Tide rips do not occur far away from land, therefore 
land must be somewhere near by. As more and 
more of the white line on the water was revealed I 
followed it with my eyes. Then just where it ended 
the outlines of a rock loomed large. Instantly the 
thought flashed: "this is no tide rip, it is a line of 
surf, the darker portion is land, and it must be the 
southern end of Flores." It took about two seconds 
to signal the pilots to come down. While they were 
spiralling down through the rift, being very careful 
not to enter the surrounding fog, I ducked down to 
my chart and laid a course to the next destroyer which 
would be Number 22. As I had hoped, on approach- 
ing the water we found that the fog stopped nearly two 
hundred feet above it. As we rounded the point a 
peaceful farmhouse came into view in the midst of 
cultivated fields on the side of the hill. That scene 
appeared far more beautiful to us than any other 
ever will. If the worst happened now we could land 
in a lee somewhere, and get ashore, somehow. 

But now things seemed to be breaking our way. 


The friendly shores of Flores were soon left behind 
but we could now see for about ten miles all around. 
Soon the smoke of Number 22 was seen and we 
passed over her at 12:08. We were feeling quite 
cocky; we had passed through the fog and were again 
on our line with visibility now about twelve miles. The 
engineer assured me that there was sufficient gas and 
oil left to make Ponta Delgada about 250 miles away. 
Why stop at Horta then? The pilots had the same 
idea; we flew on, and soon left the destroyer astern. 

Then it started to thicken up once more; we passed 
streaks of thick fog, and by the time Number 23 was 
due, we could hardly see a mile in any direction and 
we missed her. Soon the fog became dense, but 
keeping fifty feet above the water we could still keep 
it in sight. No Ponta Delgada for us to-day; we 
would be perfectly satisfied to make any port. I 
figured keeping on our course until 1:18; then make 
a right-angle turn, and, allowing any speed between 
seventy and eighty -five knots from Destroyer 22, we 
should sight land somewhere between the western end 
of Fayal and the eastern end of Pico with some mar- 
gin to spare. 

Before it became necessary to execute this ma- 
noeuvre, however, land was again sighted this time 
the northern end of Fayal Island. There was a 
region of comparatively clear air to leeward of the 
island which enabled us to see it. Again we breathed 
more easily Horta, where one of our base ships was 
at anchor, must be just around the corner. We lost 
no time in heading for the beach, rounded the island 
through the very rough air tumbling down from the 


mountains, and then headed for a landing. . It was 
too thick ahead to determine whether Horta was 
there or not, but as soon as we had landed and taxied 
in a few minutes, it was evident that we were in the 
wrong bight. Again we took the air, rounded the 
next point, and caught sight of the Columbia less 
than a mile away just before the fog swept in and hid 
her completely from view. It was only a matter of a 
few seconds' time to pick her up again and to land 
close by the stern. The landing was made at 1 :23. 

We were safe in a snug harbour at last, fifteen 
hours and eighteen minutes from Trepassey Bay, 
Newfoundland, or fifteen hours and thirteen minutes 
actual flying, counting out the time on the water after 
our first landing in the wrong bight. Our average 
speed for the entire run was about seventy-nine 
knots, or ninety statute miles per hour. 

The crew needed sleep, but nothing else; the plane 
was in excellent condition except for a few very 
minor repairs required. 

As we ascended the gangway of the Columbia the 
crew gave us a hearty cheer. It was quite a surprise 
to us, as it was our first realization that people at 
large considered the flight as a great feat. 

The skipper insisted on my taking his bed while he 
slept on a cot; we were all treated like kings. Bands 
from Horta were serenading us, bouquets of flowers 
were sent out from the city, and many congratula- 
tory messages were received by radio and by cable. 



ATER a good night's sleep, the trip to Ponta 
Delgada, about 150 miles, occupied our 
attention; but our experience at Chatham 
was repeated the crew and the N.C.4 were ready 
long before the weather allowed a start. 

Our stay at Horta from the 17th to the 20th was 
pleasant enough but all hands were champing at the 
bit to be on the way. Then, too, we were much wor- 
ried about the fate of N.C.S with Commander Tow- 
ers and his crew. N.C.1 was picked up in a few 
hours so that their safety no longer gave us any 
anxiety; but it seemed as though N.C.S never would 
be located. When they were finally reported off 
Ponta Delgada under their own power our gloom 
disappeared at once. The water cruise of N.C.S 
was a triumphant demonstration of courage, expert 
seamanship, and the seagoing qualities of the sea- 
plane hulls. Sixty hours in a gale of wind and thirty 
to forty foot waves, adrift in a machine designed for 
entirely different surroundings, the N.C.S overcame 
all difficulties and arrived at port safely! I was 
very thankful that we had been fortunate enough to 
get that glimpse through the fog of the rocky surf- 
bound beach of Flores. 

While waiting at Horta the report came in of the 



attempt of the two airplanes to make an ocean flight 
by the Newfoundland-Ireland route. One smashed, 
the other got away then silence. Nothing was heard 
except wild rumours. We were fervently hoping that 
the pilot and navigator would be picked up by some 
ship. Of course we were hoping against their suc- 
cessfully effecting the first transatlantic flight; but 
men that will embark on an enterprise like that know- 
ing that weather conditions were unfavourable are 
too brave and courageous, even if perhaps foolhardy, 
to be otherwise than admired. 

The weather settled finally on the afternoon of the 
19th and preparation was made for a daylight start. 
At daylight, however, ram squall chased rain squall 
over the mountains and all around us. More pa- 
tience was required. Incidentally, I have never heard 
"patience" mentioned as one of the requisite quali- 
ties of an aviator's make-up. It should be. That 
quality has to be more frequently exercised and for 
longer periods than any other. 

The weather at Horta and along the course to 
Ponta Delgada ceased "squalling" later, and at 12:39 
G.M.T. on the 20th we were once more winging 
onward, again with a strong favouring wind. We 
found the air so rough along the southern side of 
Pico that the course was laid about eight miles off 
shore where it was smoother but none too comfort- 
able. For the third time this trip we passed over 
the destroyer Robinson; the first time on the Halif ax- 
Trepassey leg as a regular station ship, the second 
while she was on her way to the Azores; this time 
bound from Horta to Ponta Delgada. She left 


about one half hour ahead of us and we beat her to 
the latter place by about five and a half hours, a dis- 
tance of 150 miles. 

The flight was uneventful. We left Pico and San 
Jorge behind; Terceira lingered in sight a little longer. 
Visibility was excellent from 1,000 feet; the destroy- 
ers' smoke was sighted twenty-five miles away. As 
soon as they sighted us the smoke would be discon- 
tinued and we would lose sight of them until very 
close. Their wake was lost in the white caps of a 
fairly rough sea and their colour blended in with the 
background of water. San Miguel soon loomed in 
sight and with our ninety-knot gait it was a few min- 
utes only before the town and harbour of Ponta 
Delgada, with many ships lying at their moorings, 
spread itself beneath. A wide circle to meet the 
wind, a gusty descent, a pretty landing, and we were 
soon safe in the smooth water behind the break- 

As the exhaust of the engines subsided we heard 
a new noise, one that brought back memories of 
New Year's Eve in New York. Whistles were 
blowing, all ships were full-dressed, and as we ap- 
proached our buoy we could see thousands of cheer- 
ing people lining the rails and the seawall and the 
shore. It dawned on us that this was all a welcome 
to us. Somebody said: "These people must think 
we have done something." Events following im- 
mediately afterward deepened that impression. Rear- 
Admiral Jackson, Commander of the U. S. Naval 
Forces in the Azores, greeted us at the landing, took 
us in hand, and we were presented to the Governor; 


then the movies had their turn, and I had 1 my first 
experience of "greeting the cheering populace" 
from a balcony. 

After a late lunch the crews of the battered N.C.3 
and the N.C.4 attended a beautiful reception given 
by the Governor. There was a fine-looking body 
of men there, and speeches and wine were in order, 
but as the former were all in Portuguese, we could 
really appreciate only the latter. After reading the 
translation of the Governor's speech it was agreed 
that we were fortunate in not understanding any of 
it (except "President 'Weelson'") at the time, for 
it saved us considerable embarrassment. It was 
couched in such complimentary terms that we could 
not have helped blushing. 

The Admiral put us up in the "Admiralty" and 
treated us royally. After dinner he gave a recep- 
tion and dance attended by all the notables. We 
managed very well with Ponta Delgada's fair ones; 
they danced surprisingly well. 

The following day one of the motors shirked its 
duty hi attempting a getaway and a postponement 
of our start on the fourth leg, Ponta Delgada to 
Lisbon, was necessary. In order to make Lisbon 
during daylight it would be necessary to start early 
in the morning. Therefore this meant a twenty-four- 
hour delay. The offending motor was coerced into 
a better line of behaviour and the machine was 
carefully groomed, but the following morning the 
roughness of the sea prevented even an attempt at a 

In fact, we were in Ponta Delgada five days more 


before the weather and the sea were sufficiently 
favourable to permit our leaving. Once or twice 
during that period it might have been possible to get 
off the water without damaging the plane, but we 
were too near our goal to take foolish chances with 
the Navy's "last hope" for the sake of completing the 
flight a day or two sooner. This was one of the most 
anxious times of the entire trip. We were not wor- 
ried about our next flight, but were afraid that some 
small boat might run into the plane at its moorings 
and damage it badly. 

At last, on the 26th, conditions looked favourable 
for a start on the following morning. 

The start was planned for 6 A. M., but was delayed 
on account of dirt in the gasoline and in the car- 
buretor, and was not finally made until 10:18. The 
swells were quite high, but as N.C.4 was two thou- 
sand pounds under her "full-load" weight she took 
the air with but a few jolts. The area in which a 
getaway was possible was so small that we had been 
rather anxious about it all, and it was a great relief to 
find ourselves in the air with the machine intact. 

A favouring wind of about twenty knots was blow- 
ing and visibility was good, but thick clouds were 
covering the mountains. 

After leaving Ponta Delgada and the Island of San 
Miguel behind, the first destroyer on our line was 
sighted dead ahead, but just why it was picked up 
in that position I have never understood, because at 
the time we were making some seven or eight de- 
grees to the right of the proper course. On account 
of this error Number 2 destroyer was barely visible 


when abeam, about fifteen miles away, and, Number 

3 was missed altogether. 

I could not figure out the cause of this wandering 
away from the line, but headed more to the north- 
ward with the hope of seeing Number 4. The 
thought came to me that in case we saw no more 
destroyers at all, the coast of Portugal stretched a 
long way to the north of Lisbon, and to the south, 
if we missed Portugal, there was Africa which, with 
our gasoline supply, we should be able to reach, so 
that if the motors held out we ought to be able to 
make some port. 

The radio compass then showed its usefulness. A 
bearing taken on Number 4 indicated her to be 
twenty degrees off our port bow. Some minutes 
later another bearing indicated her as forty-five 
degrees off the port bow. 

We then changed course still more to the left or 
toward the north, and it was not long before Number 

4 was sighted off our port bow. It was a great relief 
to be back on our line once more. The rest of the 
crew had been too busy to notice whether we were 
picking up destroyers or not. 

Later on I discovered that the compass had been 
jarred out of its position an amount equal to the 
original error hi our course. This had probably 
occurred when we were bouncing on top of the swells 
in making the getaway from Ponta Delgada, al- 
though it was not noticed at the time. 

A little later a rain squall of considerable area 
appeared directly in our course, and it was necessary 
to head forty degrees to the left for about eight min- 


utes in order to pass around it; but with another 
change to bring us back to the line the next de- 
stroyer was picked up exactly where it was supposed 
to be. Then while passing over No. 7, which was our 
old friend the Robinson this making the fourth 
time the N.C.4 had passed over her on the trans- 
atlantic flight there were two rain squalls, one 
off the starboard and one off the port bow, but we 
passed between them without having to change our 

The visibility became very poor, and our altitude, 
which had been about one thousand feet, was re- 
duced to six hundred feet. Up to this time the speed 
made had been about eighty-eight knots, thanks to 
the wind, and the air had been comparatively free 
from bumps. 

As we continued eastward the wind gradually 
dropped, the whitecaps disappeared, and no disturb- 
ance of the water could be seen except the long 
grounds well. Smooth water is much to be pre- 
ferred to a strong even if favouring wind, because 
the ever-present possibility of having to land keeps 
a flyer more or less at a tension. 

In other words, it is more comfortable to fly over 
water on which you know an easy landing can be 
made than to fly over water so rough that there will 
be a probability of breaking something in case of a 
forced landing, and a certainty of not being able to 
rise again. 

Number 10 destroyer was missing and Number 9 
and Number 11 had been moved together to equalize 
the interval. This made the run about sixty-seven 


miles between 8 and 9, 9 and 11, and 11 and 12. That, 
however, was a small matter with the compass func- 
tioning properly once more. 

At last Number 14, the last destroyer in the line, 
was passed, and a few minutes later we picked up 
the rocky coast of Portugal. Everything about the 
seaplane was functioning perfectly. Our speed had 
slowed down, but eighty-eight knots was too much 
to expect for the entire run. During the latter part, 
in order to make up for the falling wind, we speeded 
up the engines from fifty -nine knots, air speed, to 
sixty-five knots. We preferred not to reach Lisbon 
after dark although the pilots were perfectly ready 
and felt confident of landing without mishap. 

From questions asked after the completion of the 
flight it would appear that most people are under the 
impression that the entire flight was one "grand 
thrill" from start to finish. As a matter of fact, 
a good deal of it was really monotonous as has been 
stated before. Perhaps the biggest thrill of the 
whole trip was experienced as we passed over the 
beach line of Portugal and realized that no matter 
what happened even if we crashed on landing the 
transatlantic flight, the first one in the history of the 
world, was an accomplished fact. 

During this run we had become so accustomed to 
travelling long distances through the air that I 
drew up my report to the Navy Department before 
landing, and the engineer shaved in readiness for the 
reception which we heard was going to be held on the 
Rochester, flagship of the destroyer force. On the 
strength of this the company manufacturing the 


particular brand of razor used for the operation, sent 
me a razor later on as a gift. 

At 7 :50 we were nearing the entrance of the Tagus, 
still carrying a slight westerly wind. Then a few 
minutes later we circled and landed astern of the 
Shawmut at 8:01. The time elapsed during the 
flight from Ponta Delgada was nine hours and forty- 
three minutes. Our average speed had been about 
eighty knots. 

A scene greeted us similar to that at Ponta Del- 
gada except on a much larger scale. In addition the 
men-of-war anchored off the city gave us a 21 -gun 
salute, a salute ordinarily rendered only to the Presi- 
dent or to the flag of a foreign country. 

Immediately after securing the seaplane we were 
taken on board the Rochester and with great cere- 
mony were decorated by the Portuguese Government. 
The personnel of the N.C.4 were a little tired but 
otherwise in fine shape. In fact, some of us decided 
to go ashore and see the town, as it might be our last 
chance. The N.C.4 was in its usual tiptop condition, 
ready for another all-day run. 

The Portuguese were very enthusiastic about the 
flight, and desired to do a good deal in the way of 
entertaining, but it was necessary to push on to 
Plymouth. When we left, on the morning of the 
30th of May, it was necessary to cancel several 
official engagements that had been made for that 

The start for Plymouth was made at 5 :29. Before 
heading out for the mouth of the Tagus we circled 
over the city as a parting compliment to the people 


who had treated us so kindly, and sent a< fare well 
message of thanks by radio to the American minister. 

The weather was favourable except for small rain 
squalls. We skirted the coast, flying about ten miles 
off, and everything went along normally until 7:05, 
when we discovered a water or a gasoline leak in the 
port engine, and it became necessary to make repairs. 

There was a fair-sized swell running, and to land in 
that would endanger our chances of getting off again 
after making whatever repairs were found necessary. 
Therefore we headed for shore to find smooth water. 
We found it in what we discovered was the Mondego 
River and landed just above the town of Figueira, 
Portugal, at 7:21. 

The river was full of sand bars and while taxiing 
about, the plane ran aground but was got off into 
deeper water with no damage. Meanwhile, the leak 
had been repaired it was a water leak which was 
stopped by merely putting some "radiator prepara- 
tion" into the circulating system. 

Having been forcibly reminded of the choked con- 
dition of the river when we ran aground, and having 
come to a realization of the danger of damaging 
the hull on one of the small bars, it was decided to 
secure the plane temporarily to the bank of the river 
and to search for sufficient depth of water and suffi- 
cient room in which to make a getaway. The Captain 
of the Port arrived on the scene and very cordially 
assisted us by furnishing boats, and in other ways. 
He sppke Portuguese and French, we spoke English. 
However, the engineer boasted a very limited vocabu- 
lary of French words, and with nay still more limited 


(Above} Commander Richardson and other investigators have studied 
pictures like this very closely in their attempt to formulate the basic prin- 
ciples of the new science. 

(Below} Professor Langley of the Smithsonian Institution came to grief 
when he tried to fly in this machine, which came to be known as "Langley 's 
Folly." Years after the death of the disappointed inventor Curtiss vindi- 
cated his ideas by actually flying in the old machine at Hammondsport. 


(Above) Glenn Curtiss won the Scientific American Trophy by flying 
this machine for one mile, July 4, 1908. It was then called the June Bug. 
When fitted with floats, as shown, and re-christened the Loon, she was 
unable to fly. 

(Below) The first successful hydroaeroplane, flown at San Diego in 1912. 



(Above) Miss Masson stands sponsor with a ribbon and horseshoe- 
decked bottle of wine. Mr. Glenn Curtiss stands, at her right and Lieut. 
Porte of the Royal Navy, the prospective pilot, stands, hat in hand, at the 
America's bow 

(Below) The bottle is broken and Lieut. Porte dodges, to the amuse- 
ment of the soectators 


command of the language we managed to get 

From our investigation of the river and from the 
the general tenor of the Captain of the Port's verbose 
explanation it was apparent that a wait for high tide, 
which would occur at about 2 p. M., was necessary. 

We were the guests of that same Captain of the 
Port for lunch. He presented us to the "President" 
of the town, who congratulated us most heartily 
and then offered to turn over to us the whole town 
or any portion of it if we had any use for it. 

Two destroyers had arrived off the mouth of the 
river in response to our radio calls; one of the skippers 
came ashore in his small boat through a breaking 
surf the natives had assured us that the passage 
could not be made at that stage of the tide. This 
was another exemplification of the fact that destroyer 
officers delight in doing things ordinary mortals find 

We discussed with this officer the details of the 
remainder of the trip and decided to make a stop 
for the night at Ferrol, Spain, as it was clearly im- 
practicable to reach Plymouth before dark. 

The tide having risen sufficiently high we finally 
left the water at 1 :38 p. M. ; there was a light breeze 
in our favour and the weather was beautiful except 
for numerous squalls of small area which required an 
occasional change of course. We kept near the coast- 
line where the air was generally clearest and where 
the scenery was much more enjoyable. Our power 
plant was in excellent condition, the leak having been 
entirely stopped. Our radio apparatus was function- 


ing finely as usual, and we intercepted many air con- 
versations, most of them in Portuguese or Spanish. 

Off Cape Finisterre we encountered a strong, 
favouring wind and were able to beat our estimated 
time of arrival at Ferrol, made two hours before, by 
fifteen minutes. Ferrol is surrounded by high hills, 
and though the harbour is very beautiful the air is de- 
cidedly troublesome. We circled over thousands of 
the townspeople, who had flocked to the docks and 
seawall, then landed and secured to a convenient 
buoy to wait for a destroyer. 

One arrived a few minutes later and the personnel 
bunked on her for the night. No repairs to the sea- 
plane were necessary. The Spanish officials were 
very polite, making calls of courtesy and offering 
us every assistance. The weather forecast for the 
next morning was slightly unfavourable, but we de- 
cided to proceed in spite of it. 

We left at 6:27, on the morning of May 31st, and 
after clearing the harbour encountered rain for forty 
minutes, the thick weather and frequent squalls re- 
quiring many changes in our course. In fact, at one 
time the squalls were coming so thick and fast that 
the pilots started to take matters in their own hands 
and to steer their own courses. For a while I allowed 
them to do this and endeavoured to keep track of 
their twists and turns until I finally gave it up as a 
bad job and made them follow the courses given to 
them in spite of rain and "bumps." 

Visibility was poor all the way across the Bay of 
Biscay and we missed four of the six destroyers sta- 
tioned between Ferrol and Plymouth. But the 


water was smooth and the French coast not so far 
off our starboard hand that there was any occasion 
to worry over not sighting the destroyers. 

We edged off to the right of the course in order to 
be certain of not missing Ushant, the northwestern 
corner of France, and eventually sighted Ras Point 
which is to the southward of Brest. And then as a 
compliment to the Commander of U. S. Naval Forces 
in France who had sent us several congratulatory 
messages we flew over the harbour of Brest, circled, 
then came out and continued on to Plymouth. 

The country we saw below us was very picturesque, 
but the weather outside was so thick that we came 
down to within a few feet of the water for better 

Leaving France behind we ran into an increasing 
head wind while crossing the Channel, the thick haze 
clearing somewhat as we reached mid-channel. 
Then, nearly two hours after leaving Ushant, the 
hills around Plymouth were sighted dead ahead. 
Several British seaplanes had gone out to meet us 
but we missed them on account of the fog. 

A quick climb was made to 1,500 feet in order to 
pick out a suitable landing place, then we landed in 
smooth water at 1:26 and taxied up to our buoy. 

The job was finished. 



WE HAD a wonderful reception from the 
officials, which made a fitting climax to 
the entire trip. The heartiness of the con- 
gratulations showered upon us proved the sports- 
manship of the British. The crew of the N.C.4 was 
in better health than at the time of the start from 
Rockaway Point, and the good condition of the sea- 
plane proves the excellent serviceability of that type 
of flying craft. Our Liberty motors had given a 
marvellous performance. Three of them were the 
same ones first installed at Rockaway; the fourth 
had been put in at Trepassey Bay. 

Immediately upon landing we were taken to the 
Rochester which had preceded us from Lisbon and 
were presented to several notables. Then we went 
ashore in order to be received officially on the " Ply- 
mouth Rock" by the city officials. 

Up to this time I had been under the impression 
that our own Massachusetts town boasted the only 
Plymouth Rock in existence; but here there was an- 
other one, a slab of rock laid down on the spot from 
which the first Pilgrims embarked on the Mayflower 
in 1620. 

The ceremony was very dignified and impressive. 



After this they escorted us on a sort of triumphal 
parade through the city, and then we were guests 
of honour at a beautiful luncheon. 

The next morning all of us, including the crews 
of N.C.I and N.C.3, who had come from the Azores 
by sea instead of by air, left Plymouth for London. 
I will not attempt to describe the many banquets 
and other honours that were tendered us. Perhaps 
the two most important of these were a luncheon 
at the House of Commons where we had the honour 
and pleasure of meeting H. R. H. the Prince of Wales 
and many other famous men whom we had heard of 
but never seen, and the ceremony of being decorated 
with the Royal Air Force Cross. Although the King 
awarded the decorations he himself was not present. 

After a week of gaieties in London we were ordered 
to Paris. Although it could not be discovered by a 
mere reading of the orders, our verbal instructions 
were simply to have a good time until we were tired, 
then to proceed home by way of a steamer sailing 
from Brest. 

These orders were carried out. The French people 
were very enthusiastic about our flight and enter- 
tained us royally, but strange to say all of us were 
ready to leave even before the week was over which 
we had agreed upon as our limit. To go home 
seemed the most desirable thing that could happen 
to us. I could not help thinking how much more 
anxious to go home must the people be who had been 
over there for many months, nor help feeling a deep 
sympathy for those who were still being held on 
the other side. 


While in Paris we met President Wilson. <He con- 
gratulated us but warned us "not to get too high for 
the higher you get the harder the fall will be." We 
also Jhad the good fortune to meet the others of 
the "Big Four," Clemenceau, Lloyd-George, and 

We counted ourselves in luck in getting passage in 
a comfortable steamer and finally arrived back in 
New York on the 27th of June, exactly one month 
after the N.C.Jfs arrival at Lisbon. Here we ran 
once more into a regular barrage of entertaining. 

The celebrations at present writing have not yet 
ceased. And we appreciate it all; more so even than 
the many honours showered on us abroad, for no 
matter how much one is entertained and feted by 
strangers in a strange land the plaudits of one's own 
countrymen in one's own native land have a far 
greater appeal. They carry with them the feeling 
that something worth while has really been accom- 
plished and that our own people approve of us. 

Since the N.C.4 landed in Lisbon innumerable 
questions have been asked us concerning all features 
of the flight. The answer to most of them can be 
found in what has been said above. Some of the 
queries have not been covered and I will put them 
down here and endeavour to give the correct answers. 

"Is the N.C. type of seaplane suitable for trans- 
oceanic fly ing?" 

It is not. Seaplanes must be built of far greater 
size before a regular service across the Atlantic could 
meet with any success. The hulls were very sea- 
worthy as N.C. 3 demonstrated, but during her 200- 


mile trip on the water the crew were far from com- 
fortable and were continuously in danger of capsizing. 
"How do you like the Liberty motor? " 
After the experiences of this flight and particularly 
after the long night passed through between Tre- 
passey Bay and the Azores, when every exhaust 
valve was spouting out its flame without a miss, my 
faith and confidence in the Liberty is higher than in 
any other motor of anything approaching its power. 
"Did your radio outfit work successfully?" 
Something has already been said of the distances 
of sending and of receiving messages. We undoubt- 
edly broke many previous distance records estab- 
lished by seaplane sets. When one takes into con- 
sideration the small space and the small weight al- 
lowed for such an installation on a seaplane, the per- 
formance was really remarkable. The radio com- 
pass, or direction finder, also proved itself of great 
assistance, and indicated its immense value for 
future long-distance flights when it has been more 
fully developed. In fact, I look to the radio com- 
pass for the easiest solution of transatlantic naviga- 
tion problems. 

"Was the flight worth while?" 
The answer is decidedly in the affirmative. The 
information obtained concerning over-sea flying and 
concerning the big machines themselves was of in- 
estimable value for future operations and future de- 
velopment. The few who still doubt that the ex- 
pense was justified are those who always believe 
that the more tangible things that can be turned to 
present use are to be preferred to research work for 


future benefit. Still more difficult to estimate is 
the value to Naval Aviation of the advertisement re- 
ceived. The flight brought home to the people all 
over the country that aviation in the Navy is a force 
to be considered, and one capable of planning and 
accomplishing difficult enterprises an asset greatly 
appreciated in time of war. 

"What were your general impressions of the 

Perhaps the chief impression obtained during the 
actual flight was the apparent smallness of the At- 
lantic Ocean it appeared to have shrunk in size. 
We passed over it so quickly that it was impossible 
to realize the great distance actually travelled. 

The chief impression received at Lisbon was the 
great friendliness of the Portuguese people for any- 
thing and everything American. This was notice- 
able at the Azores as well as in Portugal itself. 

We were impressed in England by the hearty 
sportsmanship of the British. They had hoped to 
capture the prize of making the first ocean flight 
themselves but they did not let that interfere in the 
least with the heartiness of their reception and con- 

In France, the people showed great enthusiasm 
for all things connected with flying. In England 
also the same sort of feeling existed shown not only 
in the interest exhibited in aviation matters but in 
the way big things are being accomplished toward 
the future development of the art. It was depressing 
upon our return to this country to find that, although 
considerable interest was manifested, that interest did 


not extend to the point of furnishing financial backing 
sufficient for the needs of aviation. It is not an art 
that can advance by itself, any more than the devel- 
opment of the submarine could have taken place 
by itself after the Holland made its first successful 

"Are you going to make another flight across the 

Yes, I expect to do so inside of a few years and I 
will take my wife and baby with me. Before that, 
however, there will be great improvements effected. 
Few people realize what improvements can and will 
be brought about in the near future, or realize what 
an enormous field of development lies before us. 

While at luncheon in Paris, I had the pleasure 
of meeting some of the foremost designers and en- 
gineers of aircraft. Some of the prophecies they 
made appeared at first rather visionary even to me. 
But any one in the present age of new and startling 
inventions who says positively that we will never 
attain an altitude of 60,000 feet, will never fly at 
500 miles an hour, or will never be able to cross to 
Europe in the forenoon and return in the afternoon, 
is a most courageous person, with a courage similar 
to that of those doubters in the olden days who pro- 
claimed that iron or steel ships would never be suc- 

"In view of the interest everywhere manifested 
in flying why are not the people as a whole squarely 
behind aviation and willing to push?" 

There are two main reasons: ignorance and fear. 
People are inclined to think of flying only in terms 


of looping, side-slipping, barrel-rolls, and tail-slides. 
They forget the possibilities of the big machine in 
carrying tons of bombs and guns or of cargo and pas- 
sengers. To my mind it would be far better to 
divert much of the energy now expended in hair- 
raising stunting exhibitions to efforts toward the de- 
velopment of safe and sane and useful flying. The 
people, too, do not realize the very rapid changes and 
improvements in design, which make it imperative 
for this country to keep at least abreast of the others, 
unless we are content to remain hopelessly behind 
and be in a far worse state of unpreparedness in the 
next war than we were in the last. 

The reason for their fear is easily understood. 
Accidents in airplanes are always featured in the 
papers if one occurs in Texas, in Norway, or in 
Australia, we hear of it. If automobile accidents 
were given the same prominence, there would be room 
for little else in the news columns. There are some 
pilots with whom I would refuse to risk my life. 
But, given a modern machine with the proper at- 
tention paid it, and a skilful but conservative flyer, 
it is as safe a means of rapid transit as an automo- 
bile travelling at less than half the speed. Think 
over that statement, for it is absolutely true. Nowa- 
days there is scarcely ever an accident in an airplane 
of standard type due to fault of material they are 
all due to the inexperience or to the dare-devil stunt- 
ing proclivities of the pilot the pilot who "takes 






PRIOR to this attempt at a transatlantic flight 
by the Navy Department, various efforts 
had been made for a trip by air across the 
Atlantic Ocean. The earliest actual attempt was 
made by Walter Wellman on the 18th of October, 
1910. Mr. Wellman at that time was a special cor- 
respondent for the Chicago Record-Herald. One of 
the assignments which had been given him was a 
trip by airship to the North Pole, for the purpose 
of concluding explorations which had been made by 
him some years previous when he had been one of 
the parties on an unsuccessful attempt to reach the 
Pole by boat and by sledge. An unsuccessful effort to 
reach the Pole had been attempted in May, 1894, and 
another in the fall of 1898. Mr. Wellman was not 
discouraged by these failures and set about prepara- 
tions for a third trip, but before these preparations 
could be completed he was beaten to the goal by 
Admiral Peary. 

In the preparation for the transatlantic flight Mr. 
Wellman was assisted by Mr. Melvin Vaniman, an 
engineer who had taken a great interest in balloon 
construction and in experimental work in connection 
with balloon flights. The airship designed for this 
flight was a non-rigid dirigible type, 228 feet in 



length by 52 feet in diameter. The total lifting 
capacity was twelve tons. Plans called for the start 
of this flight from Atlantic City, N. J. 

Mr. Wellman, Mr. Vaniman, two assistant en- 
gineers, a navigator, and a wireless operator made up 
the crew. Unfortunately for the success of the un- 
dertaking, it was very foggy at the time of starting 
and the gas envelope became soaked with water. 
In order to make flight possible it was necessary 
to throw out a large quantity of the gasoline. Due 
to the heavy fog it was impossible to see far enough 
ahead to distinguish approaching vessels, and a very 
narrow escape from collision occurred off the south 
shore of Long Island. 

The balloon was fitted with an equilibrator made up 
of steel cable and drums containing gasoline, inter- 
spersed with wooden blocks to provide buoyancy. 
The equilibrator trailed from the car and took the 
place of additional ballast. During the flight, it was 
intended that this equilibrator should control the 
altitude of the balloon. Unfortunately, it produced 
a motion of gas bag and car which was exceedingly 
unpleasant and caused seasickness among the mem- 
bers of the crew. The winds, which had been ex- 
pected to help the machine in its passage, soon be- 
came contrary and they were finally thrown out of 
their course so that it became necessary to head for 
the Bermudas instead of for Ireland. 

One of the motors became inoperative and when 
the steamship Trent was sighted and offered assist- 
ance it was decided to abandon the ship. This was 
effected with difficulty, as it was necessary for all 


members of the crew to place themselves in the life- 
boat, and as the gas bag rose and fell, to choose the 
proper instant to cut the supporting cables and allow 
the boat to drop into the sea. In spite of the hazards 
this was accomplished successfully and the crew 
picked up by the Trent. The balloon had to be 
abandoned and was a total loss. 

The trip was a failure as far as accomplishing the 
desired object, but a new world's record was estab- 
lished for balloon travel. The balloon was in the air 
a total of 71| hours and had covered in that time a 
distance estimated at 1,008 miles. The principal 
cause of the failure was lack of power to navigate 
against unfavourable winds, due to the insufficiency 
of the fuel supply. 

In 1912, preparations were made for another trans- 
atlantic flight. Mr. Melvin Vaniman was responsi- 
ble for this effort. Funds for the construction of the 
balloon for this flight were supplied by the Chamber 
of Commerce of Akron, Ohio, and by the Goodyear 
Tire and Rubber Company. The balloon was con- 
siderably larger than the one used by Wellman in 
his effort. The total length of the gas bag was 
268 feet, the maximum diameter was 47 feet, and 
the total gas capacity was 400,000 cubic feet. The 
car was placed in close contact with the bottom of 
the envelope. The balloon was fitted with two 100- 
horsepower gasoline engines estimated to provide 
a speed of thirty miles per hour. 

The machine was assembled in June, 1912, and 
tests were made at Atlantic City on July 2, 1912. 
In the final test the balloon caught fire and Mr. 


Vaniman and four members of the crew were killed. 
The cause was never determined, but it was due 
probably to sparks from the motor exhaust. 

Mr. Vaniman's purpose in attempting this flight 
was to call attention to the possibilities of the dirigi- 
ble as opposed to the airplane. 

Interest in transatlantic flight was next stimulated 
by means of a prize of 10,000 offered by the London 
Daily Mail and published April 1, 1913. The Daily 
Mail had previously offered similar prizes to stimu- 
late efforts to cross the English Channel and flights 
from London to Paris. These flights had been suc- 
cessfully accomplished, and the next big and spec- 
tacular flight would be the flight across the Atlantic. 

The next project for transatlantic flight to be 
started in America was financed by Rodman Wana- 
maker. Mr. Wanamaker furnished the funds with 
which Glenn Curtiss constructed a flying boat called 
the America, which was to be piloted by Lieut. J. C. 
Porte of the British Navy. 

The machine was of biplane construction with an 
over all length of 37| feet. The span of the upper 
wing was 75 feet 10 inches. The total load to be 
carried was 5,000 pounds, and the estimated speed 
was 65 miles per hour. The power plant was of 
two Curtiss OX-2 motors, arranged to drive tractor 
propellers. The pilots and all controls were located 
in a small cabin in the boat hull. It is interesting 
to note that this was the first two-motor flying boat 
attempted in this country. 

The America was built at the Curtiss plant at 
Hammondsport and was christened by Miss Kather- 


ine Masson. The first test was made in June, 1914. 
The machine got away very rapidly with a light load, 
but it was found impossible to leave the water with 
the designed load. The hull of the boat, which is of 
standard Curtiss construction, was developed from 
the lines of boats which had previously been con- 
structed; but it had a stubbier bow, and the tail from 
the step aft was of elliptical form. These modifica- 
tions made it drive hard and as a result attempts 
at further modifications were made to improve its 
behaviour. Various methods were used. Planing 
fins were built at the sides of the hull. Submerged 
plates were tried both at the step and at the stern. 
Additional floats were added under the wing motors, 
and finally a third motor was attached. On July 10th, 
a flight was made with ten men on board, making 
what was then a world's record for passenger carry- 
ing. On July 22nd, tests were made with the three- 
motor arrangement and the machine got away with 
a load of 4,500 pounds. Fuel consumption tests 
were made at the time which showed a gasoline con- 
sumption of about Ij times the estimated consump- 
tion. It was therefore decided to postpone the flight 
which had been planned for August to some time in 
October, to allow additional experiments. Shortly 
after this decision was made the World War started 
and Lieutenant Porte was recalled to take up his 
duties with the British Navy. This resulted hi an 
indefinite postponement of the entire project. 

Probably the principal cause of the failure of the 
America to get away with the designed load was the 
change of the hull aft of the step. While the ellip- 


tical sections improved the flying qualities, they 
reduced the buoyancy abaft the step, making the 
hull trim by the stern. This in turn gives the bottom 
at the bow too steep an angle for efficient planing. 
Also the elliptical lines undoubtedly produced a cer- 
tain amount of suction. The stubbiness of the bow 
also permitted this hull to sink deeply into the water, 
which aggravated the difficulty. The hull was later 
re-designed, using a flat bottom aft of the step, and 
this made it possible to get away with two motors 
at practically the desired load. After these changes 
had been made the America was purchased by the 
British Navy and was used in connection with train- 
ing of pilots for the Royal Naval Air Service. The 
H .16 and F.5, developed by the British, were un- 
doubtedly the outgrowth of these trials, in which 
the fins at the side of the hull became a prominent 

At about the same time of the experiments with 
the America, preparations were being made in Eng- 
land for competition for the Daily Mail prize. The 
only experiments to gain any headway whatever were 
with a Martinsyde monoplane, which was to have 
been flown by Gustave Hamel, a well-known English 
aviator who had made several record trips between 
London and Paris. This monoplane was to have a 
span of 66 feet with the chord of 14|feet, at the centre, 
tapering to 10| feet at the wing tips. The total sup- 
porting area was 750 square feet. Power was to be 
supplied by a 250-horsepower Sunbeam engine. Un- 
fortunately, Hamel was killed in a trip from Paris to 
London when a Martinsyde monoplane in which he 


was flying fell into the English Channel. The Mar- 
tinsyde machine was not completed and remained for 
some years in the Martinsyde factory. 

When the World War began and all effort was 
concentrated on the production of airplanes and air- 
ships for war purposes, the Daily Mail prize was with- 
drawn. The development of machines, both lighter- 
than-air and heavier than-air, since that time has been 
exceedingly rapid, although no machine has been 
built for the express purpose of attempting a flight of 
the length of the transatlantic flight. But there 
seems to be little doubt that if the war had not in- 
tervened machines would have been developed be- 
fore this which would have been able to accomplish 
a flight of this length. 

About the time the America was undergoing tests, 
a German aviator by the name of Rheinold Boehm 
made a flight in an Albatross biplane, remaining in 
the air twenty-four hours and twelve minutes and 
covered a distance of approximately 1,150 miles. It 
would have needed only a small increase in fuel 
capacity to fly from Newfoundland to the Azores in 
such a machine, assuming that a suitable landing 
field could be found at the Azores. 

During the period of the war it was found that 
delivery of American planes in Europe could be 
greatly expedited if they could be taken across under 
their own power. It was because of the delay in 
shipment of planes, due to congestion of freight and 
supplies and to the bulk of the planes when packed 
for shipment, that Admiral Taylor reached his con- 
clusion that delivery by air was necessary. 


General interest in the transatlantic flight was 
again obtained by the renewal of the offer by the 
London Daily Mail on November 18th, immediately 
after the Armistice had been signed. After that date 
many European and American manufacturers took 
up the project, and special planes were constructed 
to be used for this flight. However, the Navy De- 
partment's effort was, as previously stated, not a 
separate effort, but the development of a war project, 
and the Navy Department's interest was in the in- 
formation to be gained from such a flight and not in 
the prize which had been offered. 



A NUMBER of routes for the transatlantic 
flight were possible, but the final decision de- 
pended on the amount of fuel required and 
the amount which could be carried. 

The route from Newfoundland to Ireland direct 
involved about 1,670 nautical miles, 1,933 statute 
miles, traversing a region in which there were almost 
always storms at some part of the route, and also 
traversing an area in which the percentage of fog is 
high. It was early found that the N.C's would 
have to refuel at sea unless a gamble was made on 
the assistance of the wind. After due consideration 
this was considered to involve too many uncertain- 
ties and was given up. 

The route from Rockaway direct to the Azores 
appeared more favourable, because the weather con- 
ditions are generally better, and fog is less likely than 
in the vicinity of Newfoundland, but the run of 
2,200 statute miles is longer than that to Ireland, and 
would also involve refuelling at sea. It was much 
favoured by nearly all the pilots, but wiser heads pre- 

The route from Newfoundland to the Azores is, 
excluding the Newfoundland, Greenland, Iceland, 



Ireland, or Scotland route, the shortest possible land 
to land, and even in a calm was in striking distance 
for the N.C's. Weather conditions are generally 
good along this route and the wind favours if the 
time is selected with due regard to the location of 
high and low barometer, as under favourable con- 
ditions the wind blows down the lane between them 
in a favourable direction and the weather is generally 
good along the lane. Thus a non-stop flight to the 
Azores appeared entirely feasible, and the leg from the 
Azores to the mainland at Lisbon is shorter and 
weather conditions are generally good. 

The cruising radius of the N.C's depended on 
many factors which had to be determined as defi- 
nitely as possible prior to May 1st, the principal 
ones being fuel consumption, propeller designs, and 
the best flying speed. 

Very careful studies were made in detail and these 
factors were carefully estimated. Based on these 
estimates it appeared that the most favourable re- 
sults would be obtained if these planes were flown so 
that the "angle of the wings" was 7 to the path of the 
seaplane through the air. It appeared that the 
greatest radius of action would be obtained in this 
way. However, it was also found that almost as 
good results would be obtained using 5 or 6, and 
these angles involved greater speed, less time on 
the run, and in rough air might be even more 
efficient than 7 because the power of control would 
be increased, thus making it easier to hold a steady 

Another important factor is the propeller efficiency, 


for this determines the brake horsepower required 
of the engines. This problem is very complex. It 
depends on the revolutions of the engines, the speed 
of advance, the form of the propeller and its loca- 
tion on the airplane. A propeller that would be 
eminently satisfactory at flying speed might be less 
efficient when getting away from the surface at a 
lesser speed, than another which might be less effi- 
cient at flying speed. The second might be able to 
lift more additional load of gasoline than it would 
eat up on the run as compared with the first. The 
time available, particularly because of unfavourable 
air conditions, prevented a complete or exhaustive 
determination of this difficult problem, but suf- 
ficient tests were made to arrive at a fairly approxi- 
mate solution and a fairly exact determination of the 
brake horsepower required. Therefrom, by com- 
putation from the engine characteristics and also 
from runs over known distances, it was finally deter- 
mined that the average fuel consumption would run 
about eighty -two to eighty-five gallons per mile at 
seventy to seventy-five miles per hour, mean speed. 
This determination depended upon experimental 
work at Dayton and Washington with high-com- 
pression engines and different combinations of jets 
and chokes for the carburetors. 

From these determinations and also the maximum 
load which four engines could get off, 28,000 pounds, 
it appeared the flight from Newfoundland to the 
Azores, Trepassey to Horta, 1,200 miles (nautical), 
could be made hi a calm. 

Lieutenant-Commander P. N. L. Bellinger and 


Lieutenant E. F. Stone were sent to Ne^rfoundland 
to determine the best point for starting, and after 
examining a number of harbours reported that 
Trepassey was most favourable but far from 

Toward the end of April, it appeared that the 
earliest start could be May 4th. 

Toward the end of April the Navy Department 
officials took the greatest interest in the prepara- 
tion and everyone was most solicitous that we should 
have every assistance possible. The Secretary of the 
Navy was in Europe, but the Assistant Secretary, 
Mr. Roosevelt, represented him and made a per- 
sonal trip to Rockaway, acquainting himself with 
the state of the preparations and personally making 
a flight under about as rough air conditions as were 
experienced in any of the flights at Rockaway. He 
did not know that had he not been there the flight 
would not have been made, nor did he realize from 
his position in the plane just how rough it really was, 
although as the flight was made in the N.C.2, 
in which he was seated directly behind the pilots, 
he did note that both McCulloch and I were busy 
with the ailerons. He talked to each of us per- 
sonally, showing the greatest interest in all phases 
of the flight, and giving us needed encouragement. 
We were nearly worn out with the constant work and 
worry of the preparations. 

On May 3rd, at 10:00 A. M., the N.C.I, N.C.3, and 
N.C.4) were regularly placed in commission. 

This was an historic event for it was the first case 
in the history of the United States Navy in which 


seaplanes had been formally placed in commission 
and in which they had formed a definite division of 
the Fleet. 

Commander John H. Towers, U. S. N., was placed 
in command of N.C. Seaplane Division One, by 
authority of Bureau of Navigation telegram to the 
Commandant of the Third Naval District. 

Captain Powers Symington, U. S. N., Chief of 
Staff to the Commandant, in the presence of the 
assembled crews of the seaplanes, the Commanding 
Officer and Executive Officer of the Naval Air Sta- 
tion, Rockaway, the Superintending Constructor 
and his assistants in charge of the construction of the 
N.C. seaplanes, and many others, read the telegram 
and gave orders to "hoist the colours." The bugle 
sounded "colours." All hands stood at salute until 
"colours" was finished. 

Commander Towers then read his orders placing 
him in command of N.C. Seaplane Division One, and 
giving him the status of a Commander of a division 
of the Fleet. 

This formal commissioning of the planes definitely 
determined the crews of the planes, which informa- 
tion the reporters, of which there were a great many 
at Rockaway, had been trying in every way to get 
advance information. They had made many amus- 
ing conjectures and had played up one pilot after the 
other attempting to pull the Department's leg. 
These reporters were all very fine men and patiently 
met the rebuffs of Commander Towers who, under 
Departmental instructions, was able to give them 
only limited information. 


All officers attached to the division were given the 
status of officers attached to seagoing ships. 

The crews of the seaplanes were as follows: 
N.C.3 Flagship. 

Commander John H. Towers, U.S.N., Com- 
manding and Navigator, and in Com- 
mand N.C. Seaplane Division One. 

Pilots Commander H. C. Richardson (C. C.), 
U.S.N.; Lieutenant David H. McCulloch, 

Radio Operator Lieutenant- Commander R. 
A. Lavender, U.S.N. Pilot Engineer- 
Boatswain L. R. Moore, U.S.N. Reserve 
Engineer Lieutenant Brenton Rhodes, 
U.S.N. *Reserve Navigator Lieutenant- 
Commander R. A. Byrd, U.S.N. 

Commanding Officer and Navigator Lieu- 
tenant-Commander P. N. L. Bellinger, 

Pilots Lieutenant-Commander M. A. Mits- 
cher, U.S.N.; Lieutenant L. T. Barin, 

Radio Operator Lieutenant (Junior Grade) 
Harry Sadenwater, U.S.N.R.F. 

Pilot Engineer Machinist R. Christensen, 

Reserve Engineer C.M.M., R. Kesler, U.S.N . 

*Special Observer: Ensign C. J. McCarthy, 

*To Trepassey only. 



Commanding Officer and Navigator Lieuten- 
ant-Commander Albert C. Read, U.S.N. 

Pilots Lieutenant Elmer F. Stone, U.S.C.G.; 
Lieutenant Walter Hinton, U.S.N. 

Radio Operator Ensign Herbert C. Rodd, 

Pilot Engineer Lieutenant J. G. Breese, 

Reserve Engineer C.M. M. E. C. Rhodes, 

*Reserve Engineer C. Special Mechanic, E. H. 
Howard, U.S.N.R.F. 

The equipment of the seaplanes was very complete. 

Each member of the crew was provided with a soft 
helmet and goggles, a special one-piece leatheroid 
suit, water and airproof , lined with fleece, a pair of 
fleece-lined gauntlets, and if he desired a pair of soft 
leather fleece-lined boots, lacing high outside of 
regular shoes and leg of suit. According to their 
like, each member of the crew wore light or heavy 
underwear. Each wore his one-piece suit over his 
regular uniform. Each was also allowed five pounds 
for toilet articles and spare clothing. Additional 
clothing was placed on the Aroostoolc for use on arrival 
at Trepassey and at Plymouth. 

The pilots were provided each with a vertical card 
compass and an inclinometer on the hood im- 
mediately in front of him. On a central instrument 
board were located in full view of each pilot a com- 

*Lost left arm day before started. 


bined lateral and longitudinal inclinometer, an air 
speed meter, an altimeter, tachometers, and oil pres- 
sure gauges, one for each engine, and a clock. 

Between the pilots' seats were Liberty switches and 
voltage regulators for each engine, also lighting 
switches for dash and compass lights, for side lights, 
and for range lights. 

To avoid confusion and necessity for labels the 
tachometers and Liberty switches were arranged in 
plan form so that their position indicated the engines 
they applied to. 

The hand pulls for the electric starters were lo- 
cated in the bulkhead back of and between the 
pilots' seats. 

The engine throttles were located under the deck 
between the pilots. The forward throttle controlled 
the forward engine, the rear throttle the rear engine, 
and a differential throttle controlled the wing en- 
gines, permitting both to be accelerated or retarded 
simultaneously by a direct movement, or indepen- 
dently by a twisting movement for manoeuvring on 
the water or in the air. 

A master switch for cutting in or out all engines 
could be operated by the feet; it was located at the 
bottom of the instrument board on the centre line. 

A turn indicator was mounted on deck on the cen- 
tre line where it was readily seen by both pilots. 

The pilots' seats were provided with "Kapok" 
cushions for the seat and back rest. The edges of 
the cockpits were upholstered. 

Dual control was provided so that either pilot could 
take complete control or assist the other. 


Two hand wheels, interconnected, controlled the 
ailerons. These were mounted on a single bridge 
operating the elevators. 

Two foot bars, interconnected, controlled the rud- 

The navigator was provided with a boat compass, 
a special drift indicator, a specially designed "bub- 
ble" sextant, devised by Lieutenant-Commander 
Byrd, requiring no horizon, chronometers showing 
Greenwich Mean Time and Greenwich Sidereal 
Time, charts, plotting sheets, navigation tables, 
nautical almanac, and a chart board and all neces- 
sary instruments required in navigation work. He 
was also provided with a stop watch for recording 
time of astronomical observations. 

The seaplane engineers were provided with special 
tools and spare parts and materials, also a lineman's 
belt for security when working in the open under- way. 

The radio operator was provided with complete 
sets of radio apparatus for telegraph and telephone 
and radio compass, and carried limited spares for the 
more fragile parts. 

Special antennae were rigged between the skid 
fins for operation when afloat and a trailing antenna 
was provided for greater range in flight. 

All members of the crew except the reserve pilot 
engineer were also provided with telephone head gear 
for inter-communication in flight, and by a special 
connection it was also possible for the Commanding 
Officer to switch in on the radio 'phone to com- 
municate with other planes, vessels, or stations in 



THE original date for completion of the N.C's 
was set as May 1st, but as this date ap- 
proached and the manifold modifications devel- 
oped, it was apparent that the earliest possible date 
for completion of the three planes to enter the flight 
would be May 4th. This, however, was satisfactory 
as there was still sufficient leeway to make the flight 
to Newfoundland and leave there by May 14th. In 
the last days of the preparations all hands were 
working under high tension and work was going on 
night and day. The nervous strain on all hands was 
high and it finally became necessary for Commander 
Towers to issue instructions that none of the pilots 
should participate in the night work, as he appreci- 
ated that it would not do for them to enter the first 
leg of the flight if they were physically and mentally 

The N.C.I and N.C.4 were finally completed on the 
night of May 4th, and the Curtiss workmen left 
that night proud and happy that they had completed 
their work on time. During the night about forty 
officers and men carried on the work of preparation 
for the flights in the morning, and among these 
preparations was the filling of the tanks of the N.C.I 
with gasoline. About 2:00 A. M., in some manner 



a spark from the motor driving an electric pump 
ignited the gasoline, blowing the hose off the pump 
and throwing a stream of gas on the concrete floor 
directly under the right wing of the N.C.I and the 
tail of the N.C.4. In an instant the wings of the 
N.C.I and the tail of the N.C.4 were in a blaze, and in- 
side of six minutes the right wing of the N.C.I was 
hopelessly damaged although the fire was put out. 
The men who fought this fire deserve the greatest 
credit for, realizing that it was impracticable to save 
the right wing, they exerted all their efforts to hold 
the damage to it, and flooded the rest of the machine 
with their fire extinguishers so successfully that the 
damage was practically limited to the portions of 
the wing outboard of the engine mountings. They 
succeeded in limiting the damage to the N.C.4 to 
part of the lower elevator and the lower horizontal 

Many barrels of gas were on the deck of the hangar 
and in spite of the danger to themselves the men 
rolled these tanks out of the hangar clear of the fire, 
a number of the men suffering burned hands and 
sprained wrists as a result. 

The Curtiss factory was immediately notified and 
calls were sent out to their workmen to be back on 
the job the next morning. Fortunately, the right 
wing of the N.C.2, whose left wing had previously 
been damaged in a storm, remained intact. As soon 
as the fire was out the men at the station proceeded 
to dismantle the right wing and to remove the 
damaged elevator from the N.C.4> so that in the 
morning when the Curtiss workmen arrived prepa- 


rations were already under way to substitute the 
undamaged right wing of the N.C.2 for the damaged 
wing. The Curtiss workmen arrived before working 
hours, but did not wait for the whistle to blow and, 
though many of them were ready to cry when they 
saw the condition of the plane, they got into their 
working clothes as rapidly as practicable and work 
was diligently started, so that late that evening the 
N.C.I was again in flying condition, and the damaged 
tail of the N.C.4 repaired. It was only their indom- 
itable spirit which made this possible. 

From now on until May 8th, the weather conditions 
interfered and the time thus gained was used to tune 
up and adjust the planes. 

On the morning of May 8, 1919, everything was in 
readiness; N.C.I and N.C.3 had had early morning 
workouts proving everything in good order and 
N.C.4 had been tried out the preceding day. 

About 8 A. M. local weather conditions appeared 
favourable, but reports had not all come in yet as to 
conditions near Halifax. About 9:30 these reports 
arrived as well as the synoptic reports from Washing- 
ton. Conditions seemed favourable and the decision 
was made and instructions issued to get under way. 

At last the time had arrived to which we had all 
been looking forward for months. We had each and 
every one of us given serious thought to the work on 
which we were engaged, and had attempted to fore- 
see all contingencies. In carrying on the work we 
had given the most minute inspection to every detail, 
fully appreciating the importance of the integrity 
of our planes and their power plants. We had de- 


veloped many devices to insure that we should make 
no mistakes in handling the planes. We had taken 
particular care to see that we ourselves were in 
the proper physical and mental condition to under- 
take the important task which had been assigned 

The N.C.I and N.C.3 were already overboard and 
N.C.4 was on the marine railway. 

Each plane was now supplied with a package of 
about two dozen sandwiches, a two-quart thermos 
bottle of coffee forward and a one-quart bottle aft, 
and five gallons of drinking water. 

Each plane carried about 800 gallons of gasoline, 
1,000 pounds of oil, a heavy ground anchor and sea 
anchor and line, and towing gear, besides excess 
spare parts over and above those to be carried on "the 
long leg," for due to the small quantity of gasoline 
there was considerable reserve left. In addition, the 
members of the crew carried cigarettes, cigars, and 
chocolate candy. 

Having said our farewells, the crews climbed on 
board, the engineers primed the engines, and stood 
by with fire extinguishers in case of a back fire. All 
engine switches were thrown to contact, then the 
master switch, and finally the starting switches were 
pulled, and in less than a minute all four engines in 
each plane were running. A few minutes' delay to 
warm up and insure oil pressure in each engine and 
the signal to start was given. The lines holding the 
N.C.3 to the beach were released and she headed out 
into Jamaica Bay. N.C.I followed, and N.C.4 came 
down the marine railway, took the water, and grace- 


fully followed the others which had headed N. E. 
across the bay. The N.C.3 left the beach at 10:07 
A. M. local time. After a short run toward Barren 
Island the N.C.3 turned and headed west followed 
by N.C.I and N.C.4. All planes being in position 
opened out, N.C.3 "planed" quickly and at 10:15 
took the air, followed in quick succession by the 
others, and the flight was "on." 

The N.C.3 headed for Roamer Shoal Light till it 
was evident that the others could take their assigned 
positions, then turned at about 500 feet altitude and 
headed east on her course about three miles south of 
Rockaway for Montauk Point. The N.C.4 was to 
the north well in shore and the N.C.1 to the south- 
west well off shore. 

The sky was cloudy and the horizon hazy, but 
visibility was good. The air was smooth and we 
soon settled down to our cruising gait. 

By noon Montauk Point was abeam, and we set 
our course for Block Island which was clearly visible 
ahead. The New England shore was just visible in 
a dark haze to the northward. At an altitude of 
about 2,300 feet we passed Block Island at 12:15 p. M. 
and headed for Vineyard Sound. Block Island 
showed up clear and beautiful. The houses, roads, 
and fields looked like a Christmas tree garden. We 
could see the surf breaking on the rocky beach, and 
the smoke of steamers passing below showed us the 
direction of the surface wind. 

As we entered Vineyard Sound N.C.4 had gotten 
well ahead and made a complete circle to regain 
position. Here we got a few mild bumps from the 


wind coming over the land to the northwest. Buz- 
zard's Bay was visible over the islands. 

Passing Wood's Hole our course was changed for 
Monomoy Point, which we passed about 1 :30 p. M., 
getting a few bumps crossing Nantucket Shoals. 
Massachusetts Bay was clearly visible almost as far 
as Cape Cod. The course was now changed to head 
for Cape Sable. About 2:00 p. M., sight of land was 
lost in the haze astern. About this time we sighted 
the first patrol vessel making smoke well to our north- 
ward, though N.C.4 must have passed close to it as 
she was farther north. Shortly after this N.C.4 re- 
ported she was having oil trouble with one engine 
and was proceeding on three engines. She slowly 
dropped behind and we soon lost sight of her in the 
dark sky to the north. 

N.C.3&nd N.C.I continued toward Halifax. We did 
not sight Number 2 patrol though we saw her smoke 
coming down wind. We picked up Number 3 on our 
starboard hand. Shortly after we saw a heavy wind 
squall coming down from the north and as we could 
not avoid passing through it, came down from about 
2,500 feet to 50 feet to meet it. The gusts were 
sharp and strong, and tended to roll us though they 
did not affect our longitudinal trim or our direction 
seriously. By sharp work on the ailerons, both 
pilots working together, we were able to keep right 
side up and on our course. I had made a tour of the 
plane and had just returned to my seat when we saw 
the squall. As the squall hit us Towers looked back 
at us anxiously for a few seconds, for none of us had 
experienced such weather in the N.C's before, but it 


was soon evident that the plane was well balanced 
and satisfactorily controllable and he returned to his 
navigation to correct our course for the new wind. 
This squall lasted probably twenty minutes. 

On my tour around the plane I had to wriggle out 
of my seat to the side passage, and crawl on hands 
and knees to the rear compartment. There I found 
Rhodes stretched out on the floor resting. "Dinty" 
Moore was watching the engine gauges, seeing that 
gas was overflowing from the gravity tanks, watching 
the gas pumps, and from time to time looking over 
the engines and listening to detect any mechanical 
troubles or irregularity in firing. 

Lavender was busy with his radio, and I did not 
disturb him. I then crawled forward through the star- 
board wing passage and went to Towers. He showed 
me on the chart where we were, and then told me 
that he preferred running at not more than 1,000 feet, 
as it was easier to determine the drift; that is, how 
much the wind set us off our heading, also that at 
higher altitudes this drift was stronger and made our 
speed slower over the ground. 

Moreover, at higher altitudes, though we could 
still detect the smoke from the destroyers, it was 
more difficult to find them, and the destroyers them- 
selves were almost impossible to see more than five 
or ten miles, even though the point of the smoke 
trail indicated their position. Under certain con- 
ditions white smoke was more visible than black 
against the sea background. This we discovered 
when passing one patrol, which according to in- 
structions, started to steam toward the destroyer as 


we passed. When they changed the fires to stop 
making black smoke, they overdid it and made white 
smoke for a short while, and this was clearly visible. 

After passing the squall the visibility steadily im- 
proved. We passed directly over patrol Number 4, 
soon sighted Seal Island, and then shaped our course 
to pass to the leeward of the Nova Scotia coast. 
This coast is high, rocky, and broken by gulleys and 
headlands and rocky islands. 

From the time we got to leeward of this land until 
we landed in Halifax, we encountered very bad air 
and were in it for close to three hours. Vicious 
squalls continuously rushed down the gulleys and 
over the headlands, and mixed hot and cold air 
joined in giving us a battle to keep on our course and 
to keep from rolling down first one wing and then the 
other. At first it was quite a strain, but shortly, 
through unremitting practice, we learned how to an- 
ticipate effects and the best way to meet the puffs 
whose tracks we could see on the surface of the water. 

McCulloch and I agreed to take half-hour tricks 
at the wheel, and this worked very well until we 
struck the squall above referred to and until we got 
under the lee of the land. In these puffs a wing 
would go down and it would take the efforts of both 
pilots to regain control, and though we divided up 
responsibility approximately half an hour at a time, 
we were both on tfye job most of the last three 

We had never expected to encounter such weather 
in these large seaplanes and were delighted to find 
that they responded splendidly to their controls. 


Although we had hard work they never really assumed 
a dangerous attitude on this run. 

As we approached Halifax we were alarmed by the 
report that we had but two hours' gas to do two 
hours' flying, and more so when two hours passed 
and due to the strong cross wind we were still some 
distance from Halifax. For each leg of the flight 
careful computations had been made as to the 
quantity of gas which would be needed to complete 
that leg with certainty. We had figured out that 
about 650 gallons would carry us to Halifax, allow- 
ing a safe margin in still air, and we had added 200 
gallons reserve over this figure, and it was therefore 
hard to comprehend why our gas supply was so nearly 
exhausted. We later found out that the gauge read- 
ings were incorrect under way because the gasoline 
pumps drew off the same lead as the gauge. Later 
on, when we wanted gas estimates, we stopped the 
pumps to get true readings. 

Approaching Halifax a beautiful rainbow column 
appeared over the land dead ahead. It extended in a 
broad band of brilliant colours from the hilltop to the 
clouds which were afabout 6,000 feet elevation. The 
band of colours was about one third as broad as it was 

Swinging into Halifax harbour we headed straight 
into the wind and though the gusts were still strong 
they were less troublesome then when nearly abeam. 
Descending easily we made a smooth landing about 
7:00 P. M., abreast the stern of the Baltimore, surpris- 
ing those on board who were watching the N.C.I, as 
we suddenly appeared from behind McNab Island. 


We had lost sight of the N.C.I, but they had sighted 
her first coming in at much greater altitude. 

About one minute after we landed we sighted the 
N.C.I while we were taxiing to our moorings. She 
made a pretty landing about ten minutes after us and 
almost on the same spot. 

Skimming on the surface of the water at high speed, 
we frightened the captain of a schooner which was in 
our way. He put about to avoid us just as we 
changed course to avoid him, and it was only by 
sharp manoeuvring that we prevented a collision. 

As soon as we moored the crews of the N.C.Sand the 
N.C.I went on board the Baltimore. Here Captain 
Cluverius and Captain Hines and the officers of the 
Baltimore made us heartily welcome. 

The N.C.I had had much the same experience as we 
had had, and all hands, particularly the pilots, were 
tired and ready to turn in after we had satisfied our 
lusty appetites with the fine warm meal which 
awaited us. However, as we had had no news of the 
N.C.4 since she reported engine trouble, we were 
anxious concerning her and waited a while to hear 
from her. We could not understand why the N.C.4 
was in trouble. We had received no reports from her 
by wireless. If she had landed, why had no destroyer 
picked her up? We felt confident that in the con- 
dition of the sea near Chatham, when she fell behind, 
there should be no difficulty in her landing and taking 
care of herself. If she had landed right side up it was 
hard to understand her silence. We did not like to 
feel that the expedition had already been reduced to 
two planes, aside from our personal anxiety for the 


members of her crew. A false report of a plane over 
the city had us looking at a low red star which showed 
red and green through binoculars. For a short time 
it was mistaken for the plane. Later another star 
to the south was also thus complimented. 

Coming into the harbour we had viewed it under 
unusual conditions. The full red sunset tinted the 
lower tufts of clouds with a rich crimson. This 
mingled with the lights of the city and the fading 
colours of the landscape, making a wonderful picture 
in which the citadel was a prominent form. 

Crowds lined the docks, the tops of buildings, and 
the hilltops; and steamers and factory whistles added 
to the noise of the cheering crowds. But we heard 
none of it till we throttled our engines for the glide to 
the landing. 



She got away very rapidly with a light load, but could not leave the 
water with the load she was built to carry across the Atlantic. She was 
purchased by the British navy, however, and used in the training of pilots 
for the Royal Naval Air Service 

International Film He-mice (lower photo) 


(Above) View from astern, showing the construction of the tail, the 
arrangement of the engines, and the four-wheeled handling truck 

(Below) A beam view, showing the big boat on the marine railway 
ready for her start 



REFUELLING and overhaul were started at 
once under the direction of the regular plane 
crews, but the bulk of the work was carried 
on by plane crews trained at Rockaway and trans- 
ferred to the Baltimore for the purpose. All base 
ships were similarly supplied with trained personnel 
and also with adequate spare parts, to provide for 
almost any normal contingency. 

For the purpose of refuelling, the planes were 
brought one at a tune to the stern of the Baltimore. 
This ship had been modified as a mine planter, and 
the large open port at the stern was almost ideal for 
the purpose. 

The two planes had reached Halifax without any 
mishap, travelling 540 nautical miles in nine hours 
elapsed time. All the engines had run perfectly and 
the planes had been proved in very rough air. 

As soon as we awakened the next morning we re- 
ceived the glad news that the N.C.4 had been sighted 
making her way in over Chatham Bar. This was a 
great relief to us, and we now proceeded cheerfully 
toward preparations for the next leg of the flight. 

The next morning the engines were tried out, but 
due to dirt and water in the gasoline supply difficulty 
was found in starting; and a final inspection showed 


that the tips of one propeller were cracked. The 
N.C.1 had similar propellers, and although she was 
already taxiing we warned her of the danger and on in- 
spection she also found the same difficulty. It there- 
fore became necessary to change all propellers of this 
particular type. On investigation it was found that 
there were not enough spare propeller hubs to re- 
place the special hubs used with the faulty propellers. 
For a few minutes we were stumped, but Lieutenant- 
Commander Byrd, who had had charge of the 
Halifax station during the war, remembered that at 
the time of transfer of this station to the Canadian 
Government spare hubs for Liberty engines had 
been transferred with other equipment. 

We had no difficulty in arranging with the 
Canadian officials for the use of the necessary hubs, 
and preparations were continued though not com- 
pleted in time to get away that day. Late in the 
afternoon both planes made trial flights to insure 
that everything was in order. The N.C.I did not 
get off till after sundown, and then made a moon- 
light flight over the city and harbour. Her running 
lights were brilliant objects in the sky and she pre- 
sented a most beautiful spectacle, with her engines 
spitting flame as she sailed above the lights of the 
city in the late twilight. 

May 10th we were up bright and early, but the 
night had been cold and there was some delay in 
getting the engines started. Finally, the N.C.3 got 
the three tractors going, but the rear starter carried 
away and had to be replaced. In the meantime, the 
N.C.I got under way and warmed up her engines, and 


when we found that we would have to delay to change 
starters Towers ordered her to proceed to Trepassey. 

Bellinger was glad of this for it gave him a chance 
to navigate on his own. The N.C.1 took the air at 
8:47 A. M. (N.Y. time), and climbing steadily soon 
passed out of sight at about 500 feet altitude beyond 
McNab Island. 

About twenty-five minutes later the N.C.3 got 
under way. We found the air rough, the wind being 
off shore, but not so bad as when we came in. Much 
to my annoyance and McCulloch's also, I found my 
arms muscle-bound from the unusual exertion of two 
days before, and I was sluggish to reaction on the 
controls to meet the bumps. About thirty-five 
miles out, when near Egg Island Light, oil pressure 
failed on the rear engine. McCulloch shut down 
this engine and we decided to land to note its con- 
dition. We landed easily, head to the wind, and 
ahead of a moderate ground swell from the south a 
few miles off shore. On examination we found the 
rear engine in satisfactory condition, but inspection 
of our propellers showed the starboard propeller tips 
damaged. We decided to return to Halifax and re- 
place it. The return flight was uneventful except 
that McCulloch and I tried to turn in at every cove 
thinking we had reached Halifax. We used all four 
engines to get into the air, but immediately throttled 
the starboard engine to "idling" and made the run 
back on three engines. Because of lack of propellers 
to match our damaged starboard propeller, we had 
to change the centre propeller to the starboard engine 
and replace the centre one by one of the type 


that had failed. To save time we "radioed" the 
Baltimore to be ready to make this change. The 
change was completed about noon, and after our 
early lunch on the Baltimore we again got away at 
12:40, taking the air at 12:45. This time I was in 
good condition for I had limbered up on the run back 
to the harbour. 

Outside the harbour the wind had changed and, 
coming off the sea, was smooth till we had gone about 
thirty miles. Here it changed to an off-shore wind, 
and for the rest of the trip we encountered rough and 
bad air till in the vicinity of Newfoundland. Just 
before we reached Guyon Point Light we ran into 
contrary wind and the drift suddenly changed from 
10 to port to 10 to starboard. We passed just 
inside Guyon Point Light. From this point we 
headed for St. Pierre. We sighted Number 1 patrol 
well to the south of us and evidently off station. 
As we proceeded the wind increased to an inten- 
sity of forty miles per hour across the course. 
About four o'clock we passed out of sight of the 
American continent, crossing the mouth of the St. 
Lawrence. We continuously fought through very 
rough air until St. Pierre was sighted about 4:30 P.M. 
Visibility was good and we picked up the patrols 
regularly. We tried various altitudes to get out of 
rough air, but with only minor success below 2,500 feet. 
Before we reached this altitude we found the wind 
much stronger across the course and unfavourable, 
and it was also more difficult for the navigator to 
determine the exact course we were making, and 
our progress became seriously reduced. Once we 


sighted land, however, navigation difficulties were 
reduced and, as the wind direction became more fa- 
vourable on the new course, we climbed to 3,000 feet, 
where we found the air smooth but cold. To be 
certain of maintaining smooth air to the lee of the 
land we also worked well off shore. As a conse- 
quence, we could not see as far as the head of Pla- 
centia Bay, but we kept the point to the east in sight, 
and we sighted the patrol in the mouth of Placentia 
Bay. By the time we arrived off Trepassey we had 
worked thirty miles off shore. About twenty miles 
west of Trepassey we sighted a fleet of four large 
icebergs in line along a tide rip. At first these looked 
like sound steamers, but soon their intense whiteness 
and their odd shapes revealed what they actually 

These icebergs, even from our altitude of 3,000 
feet and at a distance of approximately one mile to 
our north, were of such size as to be prominent ob- 
jects in the wide field exposed to our view. Their 
appearance was majestic as they moved on to the 
westward. The water in the vicinity of their margins 
appeared to be illuminated by the reflected light 
from the submerged portions, presenting a peculiarly 
beautiful appearance like that of the sun shining 
through the back of high breakers running in on the 
beach. It is probable that the peaks of these ice- 
bergs stood 150 feet or more out of the water, and 
as only about one ninth of the iceberg itself is ex- 
posed above the surface, the depth to which they 
projected can be imagined. 

We arrived off Trepassey about 6:00 p. M. and then 


headed in for the harbour, making a detour in order 
to approach the landing headed into the wind, as we 
expected rough air under the lee of the land. It was 
now very cold and the radiators showed only 98. 
We did not feel the cold except on our chins which 
were unprotected unless we ducked below the wind 

Approaching the harbour we started to descend. 
At about 2,100 feet, while McCulloch was forward 
consulting the navigator to get the lay of the har- 
bour, we caught a vicious puff which sent the left 
wing down. I used all my strength on the aileron 
to recover, but got no response. I then used strong 
rudder to assist the left wing to rise but again no re- 
sponse, and I finally had to head down sharply, going 
down after the wing, in order to regain control. This 
manoeuvre succeeded. It all happened in less time 
than it takes to tell it, and in another moment Mc- 
Culloch was back in his seat ready to assist me. A 
long glide for the harbour of Trepassey was now 
started, throttling the engines only partially to 
stretch out the glide and to keep them warm. From 
time to time on the glide the engines were let out 
to clear them of oil, so they would not "die" when we 
wanted them again. 

All the way down from 2,000 feet we struck vicious 
puffs which grew sharper and more frequent as we 
neared the surface and came closer under the lee of 
the land. 

At one time we got a sharp drop, and Rhodes and 
a box he was seated on were tossed off the deck 
in the rear compartment. Heading into the wind, 


however, there was little difficulty with the ailerons 
and rudder; but we had to keep a sharp watch on the 
elevator and head down frequently to keep from 
being lifted sharply or to maintain full flying speed 
as the puffs would kill our headway. 

We finally got down to from thirty feet to fifty 
feet of the water where strong swells were running, 
and at this altitude approached Powells Point Light, 
fighting all the way. At Powells Point we ran on 
the water until we reached mid-channel and then 
turned at right angles up the harbour, running at 
high planing speed across an avalanche of wind rush- 
ing across the harbour from the bluffs on the west 
side. Running this way it took all the strength of 
both pilots to keep the right wing up. We were fre- 
quently lifted clear of the water by squalls, each time 
being carried sharply to leeward and skidding strongly 
as we would again make contact. On our way in we 
had sighted icebergs in Mutton Bay and to the east- 
ward toward Mistaken Point. Byrd had noted and 
reported broken ice in the sea outside. With our 
goggles befogged with spray we could not see clearly. 
Consequently when I sighted a cloud of spray from 
a speed boat racing in ahead of us, I thought it was 
a berg ahead and had visions of ice cakes floating 
in the harbour, and would not have been surprised 
if one had come crashing through the bottom of the 
hull at any moment. 

Passing astern of the Prairie and the Aroostook, 
we soon saw the N.C.I at her mooring and rapidly 
approached our own mooring about 7 :30 p. M. 

The N.C.1 had had practically the same experience 


we had had on each part of the run, but had entered 
the harbour flying hi over the causeway and getting 
a nasty jolt doing it. On the way to her mooring 
she was slightly damaged by a sailing launch fouling 
the tail and breaking an elevator horn. She had 
arrived about 4 P.M. Leaving Halifax, Barin had 
tripped and plunged a hand through the deck. It 
was painful at the time, but the run to Trepassey 
made it worse and on arrival it was badly swollen 
and very painful from a sprain. Fortunately, under 
the doctor's care it was in good condition before we 
left Trepassey. 

We at once went aboard the Aroostook. Captain 
Tomb and his officers, together with Captain Cren- 
shaw of the Destroyer Force, Captain Ghent of the 
Prairie, and the crew of the N.C.I, met us and made 
us welcome. We were soon cleaned up and enjoyed 
a nice warm meal which was ready for us. We did 
justice to it. 

During the meal and all the evening the wind con- 
tinued to blow in such sharp gusts that we had grave 
fears lest the seaplanes would drag their moorings 
and be driven on to the rocky beach. 

Every effort was made to get ready for the next 
leg of the trip. We all hoped that the N.C.4 would 
arrive in time to join us on the trip to the Azores, but 
the weather was so uncertain that we felt we could 
not afford to wait if good weather should turn up first. 

Trepassey Harbour is a narrow bay just to the 
west of Mutton Bay. On the west side are steep 
hills rising to about 300 feet elevation, with a steep 
bluff all along the western side of the entrance. A 


river valley forms a gulley on the west side which 
points for the main harbour at its broadest point 
in line with the causeway on the east side which con- 
nects Powells Point with the mainland. The inner 
harbour is too small to permit taking the air and 
crossing the causeway, and about the only way for 
seaplanes of large size to get away is to start in the 
broad part of the inner harbour and head straight 
out through the entrance. With northerly winds 
Mutton Bay is well suited for a getaway, but during 
our stay, except the first few days, a heavy ground 
swell from the south made it impracticable to taxi 
or tow out through the entrance. Even had that 
been practicable, the swells were so strong that it is 
doubtful if a getaway would have been made without 
serious danger of damage to the planes. 

The town of Trepassey is a village of scattered 
frame houses on the east side of the harbour. The 
inhabitants were very cordial. They were proud 
of the fact that one of the officers of the Aroostook, 
Lieutenant James, was a Trepassey boy. He had not 
been there for thirty years, and he particularly en- 
joyed a flight with Ensign Talbott in a small flying 

This flying plane was a small two-passenger 100- 
horsepower plane. Two of them had been placed 
on the Aroostook, in order that by exploring the air 
in that vicinity we should know what conditions 
to expect on arrival there and when starting for 
the Azores. They served this purpose admirably. 
While at Halifax we received a report, as a result of 
such flights, that at practically any time of the day 


around Trepassey the air was decidedly rough and 
bumpy. It was for this reason that, on approaching 
Trepassey, we got so far leeward in order to bring 
these bumps dead ahead. 

During our stay at Trepassey the local weather 
conditions were surprisingly good, though conditions 
on the Azores route were unfavourable, and on the 
route to Ireland were especially bad. The days 
were pleasant, but the nights were cold, and twice 
on calm nights the harbour was covered with a 
scum of ice. Because of the cold weather special 
steamlines were rigged on the sterns of the Aroostook, 
Prairie, and Hisko, so all the planes could warm up 
their oil before shoving off, to avoid possible damage 
to the engines due to cold oil. 

A number of reporters from the States had come 
to Trepassey. They had converted an antiquated 
dining car to their uses, utilizing cots at night. This 
car was dubbed the N.C.5, and while at Trepassey 
it carried the Stars and Stripes on a flagpole at one 

Sunday, May llth, we inspected Mutton Bay and 
found conditions satisfactory for a getaway into a 
northerly wind, though long ground swells were 
running in from the south. 

Overhaul went on rapidly. We carefully revised 
downward our spare parts lists and tool lists and 
equipment, eliminating everything practicable in 
favour of gasoline. We dispensed with the ground 
anchor, towing gear, and miscellaneous tools and 
spares; substituted a spare elevator wire for the sea 
anchor line; reduced our emergency rations to one 


per man, and put half our life preservers ashore. 
Some of us left our fleece-lined boots behind. We 
tore out about fifty pounds of floor slats and bulk- 
head doors and fittings, and even reduced some of 
the navigating equipment. We decided to attempt 
the trip with 1,700 gallons of gasoline, 800 pounds 
of oil, 5 gallons reserve radiator water, and to carry 
the reserve engineer if we could get off with this load. 

In February the date for the start from New- 
foundland had been set for May 14th. By the after- 
noon of May 12th, the N.C.1 and N.C.3 were ready 
at Trepassey, and the N.C.4 was still weatherbound 
at Chatham. 

We were now held up by unfavourable weather 
along the route to the Azores. By the evening of the 
15th conditions improved except that locally a strong 
wind blew across the harbour and a strong swell was 
running in at the entrance. 

We were loaded close to 29,000 pounds, which was 
greater than we had ever succeeded in getting off 
with in the trials at Rockaway, but we counted on 
some assistance from the wind though its direction 
was bad as it came over the hills with a strong down 
trend into the harbour. 

Though the N.C.4. had reached Halifax the night 
before she had been held by fog and had not yet 
reached Trepassey. On the morning of the 14th we 
had received new oak propellers, and all tractor pro- 
pellers on the N.C.1 and the N.C.3 had been changed. 
We had much more confidence in the workmanship 
and material of the new ones than in those previously 
provided. They were of the type with which we 


had achieved the heaviest weight-lifting at Rocka- 

We therefore attempted to start, but the cross 
winds caused the pilots to become drenched with ice- 
cold spray, we were unable to get planing in the inner 
harbour, and in the outer harbour the swells were too 
strong to risk a getaway. The pilots felt that they 
needed a change of clothing and it was doubtful 
whether a fresh trial would be any more successful. 
As we turned back to the inner harbour the N.C.4 
came in. This settled the question, and we de- 
cided to wait till the next day so that the N.C.4 
could join us. 

We were delighted to have the N.C.4 with us again 
and proud that she had overcome the obstacles in 
her way. We could now start from Trepassey in 
full force. On returning to the ship, we found that 
the weather conditions predicted for the next day 
were as good if not better than those for that day. 
We now made an important decision, which was se- 
riously to change the fate of the N.C.3 and the N.C.I. 
We knew that the C.5 had arrived at St. Johns and 
was standing by for an attempt at a transatlantic 

From the N.C.4 we got the first news of the loss 
of the C.5 as they had sighted her adrift about 
two hundred feet off the water to the south of Tre- 

By strenuous work the N.C.4 was ready the next 

Friday, May 16th, we again scanned our weights 
and decided to reduce our fuel to 1,600 gallons, as 


careful computations showed this to be sufficient to 
reach Horta in a calm, estimating conservatively. 
Ensign Barrat, our aerographer, assured that us we 
could also expect real assistance from the wind so 
that we should have more than an even chance of 
making Ponta Delgada without stopping at Horta. 
We decided that if we sighted Horta inside of seven- 
teen hours we would not stop there as we should 
still have sufficient gas to reach Ponta Delgada. 

In the morning a strong wind was blowing directly 
across the harbour so that it looked as if we should 
have to get away in Mutton Bay. To settle this all 
pilots were detailed to go in a launch, examine and 
report on conditions. We found a heavy ground 
swell running into the harbour and in all parts of 
Mutton Bay, and reported that it was impracticable 
to attempt towing or taxiing to Mutton Bay, to get 
off outside the harbour, or even inside the harbour 
with the wind blowing across it. 

As the afternoon wore on the wind changed direc- 
tion, making getaway conditions more favourable, 
and the weather reports indicated favourable con- 
ditions on the Azores route. If the getaway was 
delayed another day it might be several days before 
conditions would again favour. Finally, although 
it was reported that the sky was overcast and there 
was fog and rain at the Azores, we were assured these 
conditions would clear up before we arrived. Our 
weather forecaster in Washington advised us to 



THE N.C.4 was expected to be ready at any 
minute, so the N.C.I and the N.C.3 got under 
way and warmed up their engines, waiting for 
the N.C.4, and taxiing around the harbour. We 
were delayed so long that we decided we could not 
wait and finally proceeded to attempt to get off. 
About this time the N.C.4 shoved off and finally got 
her centre engine going. This had had no previous 
running since coming out of the crates. 

Three attempts of the N.C.3 to get off were un- 
successful. We had foreseen the contingency and 
decided that if necessary we could leave our reserve 
engineer and the radio converter behind. 

In the meantime, the N.C.4 got away easily. She 
circled over Mutton Bay for a try-out of her new en- 
gine and then returned to the harbour to wait for 
the flagship to start. She got* away between our 
second and third trials and in the third trial we made 
desperate efforts to get off. We nearly made it, 
but failed again. Much to our regret, therefore, we 
put Rhodes, the radio generator, stool, and a few 
tools in the Aroostook and again attempted to get 
off this time successfully. 

(In the continuance of this narrative I shall give 



time as Greenwich Mean Time, which is four hours 
ahead of New York Summer Time. Local time 
changes too fast with longitude to afford any com- 
prehensible record.) 

By getting well back into the bight of the inner 
harbour, starting near the main wharf at Trepassey, 
we had about a half-mile run into the wind, and then 
had to turn and head out of the harbour with the 
wind almost abeam, to avoid getting under the down 
trend over the bluffs. By strenuous efforts we nearly 
got to planing as we reached the turn; by constant 
work on the controls we got to jumping before we 
struck the swells in the outer harbour, and finally 
we were able to "keep the air" as we passed Powells 
Point. We were quickly followed by the N.C.4 
and later by the N.C.I. The N.C.3 got off at 22:06 
G.M.T., the N.C4 at 22:07, the N.C.I at 22:09. 

We were now off on the most important leg of the 
flight and one which was to prove extremely eventful. 
We had no fear of results as we had been through such 
bad weather on the way to Trepassey that we had 
confidence in the planes and their power plants. 
Practically all of our air stations had noted that when 
the wind came off the sea it was smooth and the air 
conditions were best except in advance of a big 
storm, when for days before the storm the air would 
become restless. We therefore expected that after 
we had gone one or two hundred miles from the coast 
that we should get away from the currents of the air 
coming off the land and find flying as smooth as a 
mill pond. But we were mistaken, as it will be seen 
as the narrative continues. 


The air at the harbour entrance was rough, so we 
climbed slowly, turned, and headed for Mistaken 
Point. This brought the wind astern and we wal- 
lowed around a bit as we overtook the puffs. 

We passed Mistaken Point at about three hundred 
feet at 22:15 and a few minutes later lost sight of 
land in the haze astern. We were off on what was 
to prove an eventful trip, sailing into the night with 
the land ahead nearly 1,200 miles away. We had 
every confidence of success. 

The sun set about 23:00 G.M.T., in heavy cloud 
banks, and it rapidly grew dark. Just before dark 
we passed close to a large iceberg and found the 
air rough in its vicinity. Fifteen minutes after 
passing Mistaken Point we passed a reserve destroyer 
specially posted and set our course down the lane of 
destroyers which at fifty -mile intervals marked our 
way to the Azores. The sky was heavily overcast, 
and there was practically no horizon to the south of 
us, while to the north the horizon was fairly clear. 

We soon picked up the lights of Number 1 patrol 
on our port bow and from then on followed the pa- 
trols regularly and easily till Number 13 was sighted 
and passed. At one time we encountered the wake of 
another plane, probably the N.C.4, and got some good 
jolts from her propeller blast. Throughout the night 
the N.C.3 found the air restless, and we tried different 
altitudes searching for better conditions. Due to 
grounding of the running-light circuits by salt spray, 
our running lights would not work and we had 
no lights on our pilots' compasses or inclinometers. 
The luminosity of the compass cards was very faint 


"We were surprised and chagrined to find the forward engine struts 
buckled like a bull-dog's legs." Showing the damage to the forward 
engine struts and the slack in the flying wires attaching at the heels of 
these struts. An attempt was made to smooth the seas by the use of the 
oil with which the deck and wreckage is smeared 




The damage to the left wing may be closely studied. The wing ribs are 
practically all detached from the rear wing spur, but the internal wing 
trussing remains intact. 


except when we would revive it with a pocket flash. 
They would then become brilliant only to fade out 
in about three minutes. 

McCulloch and I had again agreed on half -hour 
tricks at the wheel, but the air was constantly so bad 
that even when off watch we had to stand by to 
assist and frequently had to work together for con- 
siderable intervals to maintain our course and bal- 
ance. At times, in unusually turbulent conditions, 
we would divide the control. I would handle the 
ailerons and watch the wing tips and, by keeping the 
horizon line between the tip float and the lower wing 
tip, was able to anticipate effects of puffs and more 
easily keep in lateral balance. McCulloch would 
handle the rudder and elevator and keep on the 
course. This was necessary, for we found that the 
compasses were erratic and would swing with the 
plane unless we kept her from turning or from heel- 
ing. In this manner and with the assistance of the 
turn indicator we were able to make decent courses 
even in bad air. Even when the horizon was ob- 
scured, by the aid of the inclinometers we were able 
to avoid getting into dangerous attitudes. 

Very few stars were visible, and until the moon 
was well up we had to depend principally on the 

In daylight the handling of a big seaplane in rough 
air is reasonably easy because, with a visible horizon 
and objects on the surface to guide us, we can in- 
stantly recognize the attitude and movements of the 
plane and make corrections if necessary; but on this 
night the horizon was seldom clearly defined and at 


times the air was very rough so it became trying work 
to keep the plane properly trimmed by the aid of the 
instruments alone. About 00:03 G.M.T. the moon 
was dead ahead, blood red behind banks of cloud. 
Its form was much distorted and at first it showed 
about three layers. Instead of helping us, at first, 
it was a menace for it made our compasses and in- 
clinometers almost impossible to read. Because of 
peculiar atmospheric conditions a brownish haze 
horizon line appeared on our starboard bow and con- 
fused us as to the true attitude of the plane. While 
passing Number 3 patrol we sighted two steamers 
brilliantly lighted up. At one time when near Num- 
ber 5 patrol, because our running lights were not 
burning, we were nearly run down by the N.C.I. 
We warned her off with a pocket flash lamp. Her 
own lights showed up brilliantly. 

Conditions got better as the moon rose higher, but 
we frequently had to change altitude to avoid layers 
of cloud and several times ran into wind squalls 
near the surface. Passing patrol Number 6 we were 
at 2,100 feet, but the air got so rough we descended 
to 1,400 feet where we found it better. We finally 
descended to about fifty feet between Number 7 and 
Number 8, but found the air very rough and started 
climbing again. We passed Number 9 about 4:10. 
We were now above the clouds and found smooth air 
for the first time. From now on the pilots were 
able to relax while off watch. 

The navigator was constantly busy checking drift 
and position and keeping our track on the charts. 
The frequent shift of wind made this a continuous job. 


Cruising along above a thin layer of clouds, we 
had another plane (N.C.4) in sight almost directly 
below us for the run from about Number 8 till we 
passed Number 13. At one time we climbed to 
avoid danger of her coming up under us. We could 
see her running lights plainly as she passed beneath 
open patches in the clouds. 

About 4 :00, as we sailed above the clouds, we ap- 
peared to be passing over a new country filled with 
enormous hummocks and billows of white as far as 
the eye could see. We were running about four 
hundred feet above the tops of the clouds. Looking 
down I frequently noted our shadow chasing madly 
over the hills and hollows below and saw that the 
shadow was surrounded by a rainbow, forming a 
complete ring just touching the tips of the shadows 
of the wings. This moonlight rainbow was weak, 
but the colours were distinguishable. I had heard 
of this phenomenon occurring in daytime, but had 
not expected to find it by moonlight. 

We could now see the sky on our port beam steadily 
becoming brighter, and about 5:00 G.M.T. it was 
nearly full daylight. 

Throughout the night run we could pick up the 
searchlights of the patrols at long distances and the 
star-shells even farther away. They would come up 
in a brilliant burst of greenish-white light arching 
over and falling even above cloud level. 

Throughout the night wireless operators were 
constantly on the job, and although the air conditions 
had become such that we had become separated, 
each of us seeking better air conditions, we were 


still in wireless touch with each other and 4 with the 

As daylight came we could still communicate with 
N.C.I and N.C.4- In order to keep above the clouds 
we had to keep climbing, so that finally, as we passed 
Number 13 at 6:23, we were up about 4,300 feet and 
just above the clouds, which were steadily getting 
thicker and higher. They finally became so thick 
that we seldom saw the surface, and it became more 
and more difficult for the navigator to keep track of 
our true course. While above the clouds I noticed 
that the hummocks seemed to move relatively to 
each other as if agitated by a ground swell. At first 
I thought it was because my eyes were tired, but after 
repeated observation concluded that the motion really 
existed and I later confirmed this as Towers had also 
observed it. 

About the time we passed Number 13 I sighted the 
searchlight and a star-shell from Number 14 about 
two points on our port bow. Both were clearly visible 
though fifty miles off at the time. Shortly after this, 
as the clouds became thicker and higher and the 
sky was almost completely overcast, we decided to go 
down the better to check our course. Choosing the 
first opportunity we went down through a large hole 
in the clouds. Through this hole the surface of the 
sea appeared a blue black, and even in the half light 
of dawn waves were distinguishable at this altitude. 
The sun had not yet risen. We descended nearly 
2,000 feet before we got below the clouds and there 
found ourselves in a sort of half-lighted room of 
enormous size having a bright silvery rim all around 


which were numerous squalls and patches of fog. 
The air was very restless. We searched the horizon 
for Number 14, fully expecting to sight her easily, but 
she was nowhere to be seen. Coming down through 
the clouds we even had some fears we might run 
foul of N.C.4, but as it turned out later it is probable 
that while above the clouds and after passing Number 
13 we were set strongly to the south of our course. 

For six hours we now ran into fog and rain squalls 
at frequent intervals. Sometimes we would dodge 
them, but often were unable to avoid them. Once 
we were caught in a fog so thick we could hardly see 
the bow of our own plane; another time we were al- 
most blinded in a rain squall and started to land from 
about 600 feet, but before we got turned into the 
wind we ran out of the squall. Somehow, princi- 
pally by the aid of our instruments, we managed to 
keep right side up though the air at times was very 
rough. We steadily approached closer to the sur- 
face to get better drift observations. We sighted 
only one more vessel that day. This was shortly after 
we came down below the clouds. Later we learned 
it was probably the Marblehead. It was well to our 
southward, so it only helped to confuse our position. 

About 11:00 G.M.T., Saturday, having had only 
a short nap on Friday, the almost constant exertion 
on the controls seated in one position and the steady 
strain on my eyes caused them to become very 
heavy; and I suffered greatly from the mental effort 
to overcome my drowsiness, fully realizing my con- 
dition and my responsibility, driving a ten-ton 
seaplane at eighty miles per hour through bad air. 


During the night I had had some coffee, but the coffee 
was now almost gone and was cold and did not help 
to keep me awake. Fortunately, before leaving Rock- 
away the medical officer, Doctor Schade, had ex- 
plained the use of the first-aid kit and, anticipating 
just this effect of a prolonged strain in one position, 
had provided strychnine and caffein for the emer- 
gency. Remembering this I went forward and asked 
Towers for the first-aid kit and took a dose according 
to instructions. Temporarily I gained relief, pos- 
sibly because of my exertion in crawling around the 
hull, but after about a half hour I was worse than 
ever and McCulloch, noting this, signalled Towers 
to give me another dose. This time the desired 
effect was obtained and I had no further trouble. 

It now was evident that we were off our course, 
and at about 9:30 G.M.T. Towers reported that we 
were between Number 17 and Number 18, off our 
course, and asked for compass signals. 

Later on Towers got a sight of the sun which indi- 
cated our position as well to the south of the line, 
and at about 13:00 G.M.T. he changed course to 
90 magnetic. As nearly as we could determine we 
had already gone far enough to make the islands, 
but had had no sight of land or of any patrols since 
Number 13, and the visibility was so bad that we did 
not know but that we might pile up in some vineyard 
in the fog without warning. It became essential to 
know our position for we had only two hours' gas left, 
and we had to know how to use it to advantage. At 
the time of taking the sight the air conditions were so 
rough that Towers did not have complete confidence 


in it. We later found that the sight was substantially 
correct, and, had we held our course less than one 
hour more, would undoubtedly have found Pico. 

Under these conditions, Towers asked McCulloch 
and me if we did not think we could land as he 
wanted to get a radio compass bearing. We both 
looked at the sea and decided it was possible; though 
as we were up about 500 feet we decided to look 
again closer to the surface. We swung down in a 
spiral to head into the wind. Closer inspection 
indicated conditions O.K. We had landed off 
Barnegat in seas nearly as rough as those we now 
saw, so we throttled down to make a landing. We 
struck the first crest rather hard and then found a 
long, deep hollow ahead. We dropped into this and 
"zoomed" to the crest touching easily and expecting 
to stick to the surface, but the swell dropped from 
under us sharply and sat us down very hard on top 
of the next crest, making contact forward of the step 
almost under the pilot's heels. This time we stuck, 
at 13:30 G.M.T., May 17th. 

We were surprised and chagrined to find the for- 
ward engine struts buckled like a bulldog's legs. 
The engine had settled at least eight inches. The 
flying wires were slack, the aileron wires very slack. 
Further examination showed that the hull was leaking 
and several longitudinals and frames buckled and 
cracked. One hull truss wire had carried away, and 
the truss attachments to the bulkheads were strained 
as well as the connections of the tubular struts from 
the wing engines to the hull. 

It was manifest that we could not resume flight even 


had the sea been smooth. The seas were .running 
eight to twelve feet high at the time, and there was 
superposed a ground swell which added four to five 
feet at times. The wind was about twenty-five 
miles per hour. 



AWE sized up the situation we now realized 
that the Atlantic Ocean was very large and 
that we were very small. Moreover, we 
were in a not-much-travelled portion of the ocean, 
and to the southward of the usual steamer track. We 
did not yet know how serious the leakage was, nor 
did we anticipate that conditions were going to grow 

As we had placed the radio converter ashore at 
Trepassey we were without means of radio sending 
until we could relocate the radio generator in a pro- 
peller blast. We at once proceeded to do this, plac- 
ing the generator on the diagonal strut to the port 
engine. As soon as this was done we started the 
port engine, but found we dared not run it more than 
1,000 revolutions per minute as the engine founda- 
tion was damaged in landing. We did not dare run 
it long at a time for it drove us diagonally across the 
seas, and this endangered the starboard tip float 
and also produced dangerous pounding of the weak- 
ened hull. However, we were able to radiate about 
2J amperes which should cover a radius of 100 miles. 
For some reason, however, although we could hear de- 
stroyers working not more than forty-five miles away, 
they did not hear us. We also heard the Columbia 



and later got a radio compass bearing from her which 
fixed our position as about forty -five miles southwest 
of her when we landed. We later learned that the 
N.C.I was down with damaged left wing and that 
the search was "on" for her. 

It was most annoying to be practically gagged, to 
be able to hear without it being possible to be heard. 
Still later we learned that the N.C.4 had arrived 
alongside the Columbia, and was ready to proceed 
to Ponta Delgada the next morning. 

Yet later we learned that the crew of the N.C.I 
had been rescued by the Greek ship Ionia, Norfolk 
to Gibraltar, and that efforts were being made to 
save the N.C.I. This was good news to us and we 
expected soon to see destroyers searching for us. 
Next we got the disheartening news that the search 
was "on" for us to the west of Corvo. This was 
based on the fact that we had last been reported as 
between Number 17 and Number 18 when we reported 
that we were off our course. 

We were riding comfortably, head to the wind 
and seas, with an improvised sea anchor from the 
bow. The wind was sending us toward the islands. 

We had landed after 15.5 hours in the air having 
covered 1,200 nautical miles or 1,380 land miles, 
enough to have reached Horta and still had two 
hours' gas left, more than enough to reach Ponta 
Delgada in the air. 

We now proceeded to take account of stock and 
found our provisions amounted to a few dry jelly 
sandwiches, a few wet ones, some chocolate almond 
bars, and one emergency ration apiece. I did not 


learn until later that we had left our drinking water 
at Trepassey, but supposed I was getting rusty, 
greasy radiator water in order to save the fresh 

We thoroughly realized our predicament, but as 
we were riding fairly easily except for the frequent 
jerks of the loosened wings, and the leaks were under 
control, we were not yet deeply worried and fully 
expected to sight a destroyer at any time, particularly 
after dark when their searchlights should be visible 
a long distance and we could attract their attention 
by Very's stars. 

As we were all pretty well exhausted and conditions 
appeared favourable, about 20:00 G.M.T on the 
17th we decided to stand two-hour watches. I took 
the first watch during which nothing was sighted 
and nothing unusual happened. I was relieved 
by McCulloch, and from then on in turn by Lavender, 
Towers, and Moore. The next morning about 6:00 
G.M.T. I was aroused from a half-sleeping con- 
dition by a noise which made me think the hull had 
broken in two. Investigation showed that the seas 
had increased during the night and had grown so 
steep that the lower elevator had dipped into the 
wave astern wrenching the tail surfaces badly, and 
the noise had been made by the whipping of the con- 
trol column. My next watch was from 6:00 to 
8:00 G.M.T. Just as I was going off watch the rear 
edge of the left wing caught in the water, carrying 
away the trailing edge up to the rear wing spar. 
The wind continued to increase in strength and the 
waves grew larger. The contact of the tail with the 


water became more frequent ajnd progressively in- 
creased the damage to the tail. 

The wing damage also increased. We finally 
decided to cut off the trailing edge. Moore and I 
crawled out on the rear spar and after about twenty 
minutes' cutting and hauling managed to get it clear. 
Several times while doing so seas rushed over the 
lower wing and as they came up under the wing 
they would give it heavy jolts, breaking the wing ribs, 
and then sucking at the cloth on the lower surface 
tearing it away from the ribs with a sound like the 
rattling of a tin roof. This action was caused by 
cross seas which formed peaks which would rise be- 
tween the hull and the tip floats. Ultimately, with 
the ribs broken, the cloth on top sagged; and the seas, 
rushing over, would fill it with pools of water which 
greatly increased the danger of rolling over, so we 
had to slice the wings. The wing cloth in this wet 
condition was very tough and not easy to cut. At 
11:30 G.M.T. on the 18th, just twenty hours after 
landing, the left wing tip float broke away without 
warning and we rapidly drifted away from it. 

This brought us face to face with the danger of 
rolling over and made it necessary to man the con- 
trols, working the ailerons to keep balanced, and the 
rudder to keep us square to the seas so that we should 
not also lose the right tip float. 

We again attempted to broadcast an S.O.S. call, 
giving our position and asking for assistance, and 
then hoisted our ensign inverted as a signal of distress. 
We got no acknowledgment. By manning the con- 
trols and placing one of the crew on the right wing 


tip we were able to keep the left wing clear most of 
the time and to prevent yawing. 

From now on the two pilots, assisted at times by 
the pilot engineer, stood watch and watch until we 
tied up at Ponta Delgada. McCulloeJh. was seasick 
enough to prevent his taking any food^, but not 
enough to stop him from taking his turn at the con- 
trols. . 

All day Sunday we kept one of the crew out on 
the wing tip; and as all members were busy taking 
turns on the wing tip, at the controls, pumping, 
or tightening up the tip float or main float wires, or 
cutting away damaged portions of the wings as they 
continued to disintegrate (the right lower wing had 
also lost its trailing edge), there was no opportunity 
for any one to get much sleep or rest. The radio 
operator kept listening in and from time to time we 
continued efforts at sending, but always without any 
acknowledgment . 

When resting we would place cushions on the slats 
in the pilots' compartment and, with a life preserver 
for a pillow, get such rest as we could, but the swash- 
ing of water in the hull was a constant reminder of 
danger. The hull would settle and the wing tips 
would land with a thud on the wave crests, giving 
blows to the hull fastenings which they could not 
stand indefinitely, and jerking us as we tried to sleep. 
Our most disquieting thoughts concerned those at 
home. We could not tell them how things were going 
with us, yet there we were well and uninjured though 
we were in danger. 

About mid-day we sighted what appeared to be 


"land" clouds, and as they opened up slightly we 
saw a part of Pico. At first we were not certain as 
we saw only a small portion of the slope, but as this 
line did not change while the contours of the clouds 
did change we were almost certain of it. By bear- 
ings and a sun sight we now located ourselves as 
forty -five miles southeast of Pico. We still had two 
hours' gas left and debated whether we should at- 
tempt to taxi to land. This, however, looked im- 
practicable in the heavy seas then running, and would 
almost certainly have involved the loss of the right 
wing tip float and probably would have increased the 
damage to the hull. Moreover, our probable head- 
way across the seas and wind would hardly have 
brought the land within reach with the fuel availa- 
ble, nor was it likely we could have reached land be- 
fore dark. The idea was therefore abandoned with 
great reluctance in favour of continuing to sail to lee- 
ward, trusting the wind would remain favourable in 
direction and that by steering we could make a course 
which would carry us to the northward of San Miguel 
and through the line of patrol set for the N.C.4 be- 
tween Horta and Ponta Delgada. Should we pass 
the patrol line this course would take us into the route 
of shipping. At this time the wind was not suffi- 
ciently favourable for us to make San Miguel direct, 
even though we could steer safely about 10 to either 
side of the wind. 

Our decision was arrived at after serious misgiv- 
ings for it involved another night at sea and it was 
hard to give up the sight of land. At this time the 
seas were running very high, at times as high as 


thirty feet, and a forty- to forty-five-knot wind at 
least was blowing. (I base this estimate on the air 
speed meter reading twenty-eight knots, and our 
speed astern averaging more than twelve knots. 
The meter would read highest on the wave crests 
when we were travelling faster than our mean speed.) 

Constant vigilance was necessary on the controls, 
not only to keep the left wing from going under, but 
to limit the punishment of the right wing, and also 
to keep from yawing which would almost certainly 
have meant rolling over, or at least losing our re- 
maining tip float. The danger was very real, be- 
cause some waves were curling and at times we would 
coast like a surf board at speeds close to twenty-five 
knots and at one time certainly thirty knots astern. 
This stern board reduced the velocity of the wind 
relative to the ailerons and rudders, taking away 
much of our power to control our course and balance. 

The lower elevator was catching frequently and 
ever more frequently as its hinges carried away and 
it hung lower. Every time it caught it would jerk 
violently at the wires connecting it to the upper 
elevator, and this in turn was wrecking that elevator. 
We feared that when it carried away it might tear 
holes in the hull, so Moore and I cut the lower ele- 
vator wires adrift. We debated crawling out into 
the tail, but it appeared to involve too much risk so 
we gave up the idea. 

About sundown by trial we determined that we 
could maintain balance just as well without keeping 
one of the crew on the right whig. We also found 
that with the ailerons neutral we could steer with 


much less effort and still have reserve control to keep 
the left wing from catching. This was important, 
for all hands had had very little sleep or rest that 
day, and it was dangerous for the man on the wing 
tip if he should fall asleep, for at times, in spite of 
our efforts on the controls, seas would wash over the 
wings and, should he be washed overboard in his 
flying togs, there would be almost no chance of re- 
covering him, for as I said before we were averaging 
about twelve knots at this time. As a matter of fact, 
McCulloch was so exhausted that, while standing 
his watch on the wing tip, he used a safety belt to 
fasten himself to the wing strut and went to sleep for 
some time leaning against a stay wire. 

We got such sleep as we could off watch, but sel- 
dom more than an hour or two at a time. It was so 
disappointing to come off watch and not be able to go 
below and get something to eat or have something 
else to do, that several times I stayed on watch over 
my time. In fact, part of the time the work was 
really fascinating, and if a destroyer had been within 
reach it would have been a real pleasure to have gone 
through some of our experiences. 

On watch, through our exertions, we would be- 
come overheated in our flying togs, and off watch we 
would get chilled, due to the dampness of perspiration. 

We had plenty of radiator water to drink, but 
didn't drink much as it was too unpalatable. None 
of us suffered from hunger, thirst, or exposure. The 
sandwiches were uninviting, though a bite of choco- 
late candy now and then and a cigarette or cigar 
afforded relief and helped us materially. 


Sunday evening I felt quite fresh and stayed on 
watch till about eleven. It was more difficult 
fighting the seas at night for we could not see them 
much before they got to us and it was more difficult 
to hit them square to the crest which we had learned 
was necessary. The pilots had been to school and 
through compulsion had learned to * ' fly " backward and 
still steer a course, so that only once in a while were 
we caught in cross seas which put the left wing under, 
and only once or twice did it go under so badly that 
we had to call for help and send a member of the crew 
out in the right wing to assist in recovering balance. 
Cross chop was most difficult to- handle and did the 
most damage to the lower wings. At times the seas 
were so steep that we would be supported by the peak 
of a wave which extended only from the front to the 
rear of the wing along the main hull, but in no case 
did we ship any seas in the main hull. 

The right tip float constantly got severe punish- 
ment and it was frequently necessary to tighten up 
the float-bracing, as it slacked due to rocking. 
This nearly always meant that Moore would get 
drenched, though we tried to keep the float clear 
while he was on it. We found each wave crest had 
to be tackled individually nearly square to the crest 
and, because the wind frequently shifted in squalls 
and cross seas were running, this meant unremitting 
manoeuvring. It was surprising how quickly the 
seas would change direction as the wind shifted and 
how quickly they would build up as the squalls came. 

On Sunday we saw a number of gulls playing over 
the waves. It was wonderful to see them skimming 


the surface, never touching the water, and taking 
advantage of the changing velocities to tmnk and 
soar and maintain flight without apparent effort or 
beating their wings. They were the only signs of 
life we saw on our entire run excepting a few Mother 
Carey's chickens. 

That night our eyes were strained and tired and 
several times we thought we saw searchlights, partic- 
ularly after the moon rose, only to find that it was a 
spouting wave peak, the phosphorescence of a white- 
cap, or the moonlight on a wisp of cloud. After I 
came off watch I went back to the stern of the hull to 
see how the elevator was making out. While stand- 
ing there I looked down into the water and saw what 
appeared to be a sort of sea serpent swimming along 
with its head about abreast the stern of the hull. It 
wove its way along like a monster eel. On closer 
inspection its body appeared much larger than its 
head which seemed quite small in proportion. After 
watching it for several minutes I found it was the 
elevator wire dragging in the water and making a 
phosphorescent streak as we rushed astern. 

Early Monday morning we had heavy wind squalls 
with driving rain and about 18:00 G.M.T., the wind 
changed direction so that the best course we could 
make good was southeast. This was very discour- 
aging for during the night we had been making a 
course which would take us close to Ponta Delgada, 
and the new course would take us clear of the islands. 
Fortunately, after two hours of this we were able to 
resume our course, which Towers had determined, by 
a moon-and-star sight, would carry us almost direct to 


Ponta Delgada. Another sight of the sun about 
9:00 G.M.T. showed us that San Miguel should be 
sighted shortly and while Towers was communicating 
this news to the pilots, Moore sighted land dead 
astern at 10:23 G.M.T. We soon made it out to be 
San Miguel. The effect of this discovery was re- 

All hands had fully realized our serious situation and 
the consequences that might at any time ensue from 
the loss of the right tip float, or the opening of the 
bottom under the severe racking of the hull, but aside 
from making preparations to have fresh water and 
emergency rations available in case of capsizing, and 
providing lashings of interior communication wire to 
lash us to the hull, we had none of us spoken of our 
thoughts to the others. Now all hands, except 
McCulloch, who was dozing, cheered up and came on 
deck. McCulloch overheard us in his half-sleeping 
condition, but, instead of getting up, rolled over and 
got a snatch of real sleep. Our spirits steadily rose 
as the land became plainer, and as it became possible 
to make a course for Ponta Delgada with certainty. 
We had not yet touched our emergency rations, but 
now became inquisitive and sampled one. We 
found it rather unpalatable and decidedly salty. It 
seemed to contain beans, dried eggs, dried fish, 
probably beef extract, and perhaps some cornmeal. 
It looked like plum pudding or brown bread, in the 
form of cakes about the size of a dollar and about 
three eighths of an inch thick. Besides these the pack- 
age contained sweet chocolate. This was very good 
and refreshing. We once more attempted to radio, 


again unsuccessfully, though we could still 'hear the 
Columbia at Horta and now learned that the destroyers 
had been ordered to search to the east with despatch, 
but there was no likelihood that they would pick us 
up, and in our present situation this didn't worry us. 
We had learned that the N.C.4 was not to join the 
search though previously it had been suggested she 
do so. 

Shortly after we landed we had put over two can- 
vas buckets as sea anchor, to prevent too much 
sternboard and yawing. This worked well and at 
the time much reduced the frequency with which the 
tail dipped into the water. We also tried oil on the 
water, but we were running too fast to leeward for it 
to be effective. Sunday, at one time, we tried out 
the sea anchor. In doing so I narrowly escaped in- 
jury through a loop in the anchor line around my 
leg. We finally got the anchor overboard, but its 
action was intermittent and too violent and it carried 
away in less than three minutes. For a while we 
rode without any sea anchor, but made too much 
sternboard to manoeuvre satisfactorily. Monday 
morning we tried setting sail to make better speed, 
but this also was abandoned because we lost ma- 
noeuvring power. 

About 15:00 G.M.T. it was apparent that we should 
arrive at Ponta Delgada about two hours later. By 
tossing pieces of wreckage overboard and noting 
the time it took to drift past the hull we determined 
we were making about six knots. Shortly after, a 
ram squall overtook us and in a sharp shift of wind 
the bucket drag let go as we crossed the crest of a 


wave and made us yaw badly. The left wing went 
down sharply but finally came up again. Land was 
steadily getting plainer. The lighthouse, radio 
station, sugar factory, houses, and trees became 
visible. Farms, vineyards, roads, and buildings took 
on form and colour. It was manifest that we should 
soon be sighted. We were first sighted about seven 
miles from Ponta Delgada at about 16:12 G.M.T. 

We had to keep well off shore as it was very prob- 
able that a sea breeze would be encountered close to 
the island which might drive us ashore on the rugged 
coast to the west of Ponta Delgada. On the other 
hand, we did not want to get too far off shore when 
it came time to taxi into the harbour. 

As we got nearer we could make out the break- 
water and shipping and a vessel at anchor in the 
entrance to the harbour. These were the first 
vessels we had sighted from the time we landed. 
A few minutes after we were observed we sighted 
the Harding coming out at high speed, shooting 
spray clean over her bridge as she raced to us. 
We at once signalled by Aldis lamp (electric flash) 
for her to stand by as we ran in under power. 

The seas were too rough to attempt towing and 
we could manage more certainly under our own 
power when the time came. In the meantime, about 
the time we expected to be sighted, we had hauled 
down our distress signal and hoisted our colours right 
side up. 

As we arrived about four miles west of the harbour, 
we found it increasingly difficult to maintain a 
course clear of the shore and had to work more and 


more across wind. This could be done only at con- 
siderable risk. That this risk was real was proven 
shortly, for as we arrived off the breakwater our 
right tip float let go. Dragging by two wires with 
its deck broken it nearly made us capsize by dragging 
the wing down. We at once started the rear engine. 
Moore went out on the wing, let go the turnbuckles 
on the two wires, and the second float was gone. 
Our danger was now so great that we asked the Hard- 
ing to have a lifeboat ready at a moment's notice 
and to stand close by. We also asked the Melville 
to have two boats ready to place under the wings 
as we came up to our mooring. 

Fortunately the wind was so strong that the aile- 
rons remained effective, particularly with the help 
of the centre engine. Several times we rolled dan- 
gerously on to the right wing. We started the two 
wing engines next, and with Moore on the port wing 
we were able to keep balanced fairly well. Once 
more the wing went down, and Lavender started to 
go out to the opposite wing from aft, passing the rear 
propeller. Towers let out an unearthly yell which 
Lavender "got" just in time to save himself from 
the propeller. 

McCulloch and I both had to work fast on the 
ailerons. We found it was most difficult to keep the 
right wing up as we were now heading into the har- 
bour, and the wind was on our port side. Moore 
was out on the left wing. As soon as we found Mc- 
Culloch could get along without my assistance I con- 
verted myself into portable ballast and relieved Moore 
on the left wing and with Lavender on the right wing, 


by running in and out on the rear wing spars we were 
able to keep from serious rolling until we got into the 
harbour and had boats under the wing tips. 

As we entered the harbour of Ponta Delgada it was 
a perfect bedlam of noise and motion. Whistles 
shrieked from every craft in the harbour, the crews of 
the ships were cheering, and the shores were lined 
with cheering crowds. Ships, boats, and shore-boats 
charged about the harbour, the launches from the war- 
ships vying with each other to see which should be 
the first to take our lines. Thus two launches got foul 
of each other and of us as we neared the mooring buoy 
and both got their propellers fouled by the antenna 
wire we had used in making an improvised sea anchor. 
Two speedy motor-sailing launches came rushing 
along with punts in tow to go under our wing. The 
one to port passed by in seeming doubt as to what 
was expected of him. The one to starboard came 
up nicely. Then the man in the punt grabbed the 
right wing tip. He hung on until he was lifted about 
five feet into the air, when he decided to let go, and 
was lucky enough to drop back into his punt with- 
out capsizing. The port launch had swung around 
for another try and this time came charging up with 
its punt submerged. 

Mack Sennett could not have staged a better 
roughhouse than was afforded by the efforts of these 
boats to be of assistance to us. 

The sun was still high over the hills at the head 
of the harbour. All craft in the harbour had 
"dressed ship," and the colours in the bunting stood 
out brilliantly as the flags whipped in the stiff breeze. 


The harbour is naturally beautiful with its' tropical 
colouring. Pink, white, blue, yellow, and brown 
houses with red-tiled roofs in the foreground, were 
set against a background of variegated fields and 
tropical foliage under a brilliant sky. Add to this 
the relief from tension now that we were out of dan- 
ger and our feelings may be easier imagined than 



WE WERE tired and dirty, but happy, for 
all hands of the N.C. Division were ac- 
counted for. Though we had met with 
misfortune, we had had a wonderful adventure, and 
were not unmindful of the favouring winds which 
had made it possible for us to sail to our destination 
unassisted. We had had three days to get used to 
the idea that we were "out of it" so far as complet- 
ing the flight was concerned. We had worked so 
hard, some of us for more than a year, with the trip 
in view; we had dared so much that the disappoint- 
ment was a bitter one that we could not go on 
through the air. 

If the damage had been confined to that existing at 
the time we landed, it is possible that we should have 
been able to make repairs and continue, but the loss 
of the lower wings, tip floats, and lower elevator, and 
the damage to the upper elevator put this out of 

As soon as the N.C. 3 was secured at her moorings 
we went ashore where we were tendered a reception 
by Admiral Jackson and his staff. There were 
present the U. S. Consul and his wife, the Civil 
Governor and Military Governor of the islands and 
their staffs, the President of the City, and others. 



On landing we found we had sea legs on, and reeled 
our way up the steps to the Admiral's quarters. 

After being officially welcomed and very much 
photographed we repaired to the ballroom. We 
then were called to the balcony facing on the square, 
to satisfy a local demonstration of a crowd which 
had formed an impromptu parade, following a native 
band to the plaza in front of the Admiral's quarters. 
On our appearance the band played the "Star Spang- 
led Banner" and the crowd gave a round of cheers, 
with a "Heap, Heap, Whoo-rrrah." 

We each then cabled home. 

After a good hot bath and making ourselves as 
presentable as possible with our limited outfit, we 
very much enjoyed a fine dinner which was awaiting 
us, prefacing the dinner with a trifle of six scrambled 
eggs apiece. 

As soon as we could decently do so we then found 
our way to real beds and thoroughly enjoyed a good 
night's rest, knowing that those at home would also 
sleep well with the knowledge that we were safe and 

The next morning we got word that the N.C.4 was 
coming from Horta. She came over the hills to the 
west at good altitude, making a long, easy spiral and 
landing in the harbour entrance. Coming through 
the air she made a great impression on the natives. 
Her reception was a repetition of that accorded us 
on our arrival. Shortly after, a destroyer arrived 
with the N.C.I crew. It was a happy reunion for 
us, tempered only with regret that we could not all 
continue, yet proud and hopeful that the N.C.4 


was still fit in every way and almost certain to 

We now learned that the N.C.I had encountered 
fog at 11:10 G.M.T. at Number 18, and like us after 
travelling about 200 miles without sighting any pa- 
trols had descended at 13:10 G.M.T., also for the 
purpose of getting a radio bearing. She had landed 
without injury of any kind, apparently in even 
heavier seas than we had encountered, but found these 
seas too heavy to attempt a "getaway." Shortly 
after landing, a heavy sea rolled one wing down so deep 
that the upper wing entered the water, and the over- 
hang of the aileron carried away, also the wing tip 
float let go. They tried out the sea anchor, but it 
carried away quickly. They then used a galvanized 
bucket as a sea anchor with better success, but the 
damaged aileron was a heavy handicap and they 
finally decided to taxi and use one engine. Even 
so they found it almost impossible to maintain con- 
trol. After about three hours they sighted the 
smoke of a steamer and started to taxi toward it, 
but lost it in a short while. A little later they sighted 
another steamer, the Ionia. She appeared to be 
heading to one side and wireless failed to connect, 
for the Ionia had no wireless. They then headed 
for her as she appeared to be getting nearer; but 
they lost her in a fog. All hands were seasick and 
discouraged by this, but the lookout on the Ionia had 
discovered the tattered wing flapping in the wind and 
took it for a signal of distress. So she changed her 
course before the fog set in. About six hours after 
the N.C.I landed, the Ionia came out of the fog close 


aboard. With a fine display of seamanship < the cap- 
tain placed the Ionia across the sea close aboard the 
N.C.I and lowered a lifeboat, which also by excellent 
seamanship succeeded in getting to the bow of the 
N.C.I. By this time, though right side up, she was 
so badly damaged that Bellinger decided to leave her, 
but carried a line to the Ionia in an effort to tow her to 
port. The rescue of the crew was no easy matter, 
as the men had to come over the bow and the bow 
rose and fell with each sea so that one instant the 
boat was level with the bow and the next was twelve 
to fifteen feet below. Only expert work on the oars 
made the rescue possible, and the captain and crew 
of the Ionia deserve the greatest credit. 

Efforts at towing were unsuccessful and the line 
soon parted. The position was noted and the N.C.I 
was then abandoned. The captain of the Ionia did 
everything possible to make the crew of the N.C.I 
comfortable and then headed for Gibraltar. 

Bellinger informed him of the search that was "on" 
and how necessary it would be for the search vessels 
to know that the crew was safe. So, as the Ionia 
had no wireless, the captain changed his course and 
headed back toward Horta. Contact with a de- 
stroyer was soon made and the crew was transferred 
to the destroyer after expressing their gratitude to 
the captain of the Ionia and his crew. 

To the crew of the N.C.I, elimination from the 
flight was just as bitter a disappointment as it was 
to the crew of the N.C.3. This disappointment was 
also shared by the crew of the N.C.4- But all hands 
were glad indeed to be saved, and pleased that one 


of our planes, which had been the lame duck at the 
start, was still ready and able to carry on the work 
of the division and ultimately win the honour of 
being the first aircraft in the world to cross the 

The afternoon the N.C.4 arrived at Horta the 
crews of the three boats were tendered a reception 
at the Governor's palace. It was a most impressive 
spectacle. On one side of the room Admiral Jack- 
son, his staff, and Captain Wortman of the Melville 
were lined up with the crews of the planes, and were 
received by the Governor and his staff. On the 
other side were all the military and naval officials 
of the islands together with prominent civilians. 
Following the formal reception, the Civil and Mili- 
tary Governors gave enthusiastic and laudatory 
addresses of welcome, the first in Portuguese and the 
second in French. Admiral Jackson replied in 
Portuguese on behalf of the plane crews. After 
this there was general mingling of all hands and 
refreshments were served. The reception room 
was handsomely decorated and furnished, and made 
a wonderful setting for the occasion of the first of 
many receptions to be tendered the plane crews, in 
Ponta D$giia, Lisbon, London, and Paris. 

It is interesting to note that the N.C.3 sighted 
nothing after passing Number 13, encountering fog, 
squalls, and rain from then on, and she landed at 
13:30 G.M.T. She would have sighted land in less 
than an hour if she had held her course. 

The N.C.4 encountered similar conditions after 
passing Number 17, but had the good fortune to sight 


land at Floras at 11:27 G.M.T., making her way to 
Horta and landing at 13:23 G.M.T. alongside the 

The N.C.I encountered similar conditions at Num- 
ber 18, at 10:14 G.M.T., and sighted nothing else 
from then on and landed at 13 :10 G.M.T. She must 
have passed near Corvo just before landing. Though 
abandoned in badly damaged condition on the 17th, 
she remained right side up until 13:00 G.M.T. on 
the 18th when she capsized, finally breaking up and 
sinking on the 19th. 

The power plants of all planes were in excellent con- 
dition after fifteen hours of flying. There was fuel 
to spare. All planes had encountered bad air con- 
ditions which proved their airworthiness. 

Except for the unusual combination of wind, fog, 
and heavy seas, all occurring in spite of favourable 
forecasts, all these planes would easily have accom- 
plished this longest leg of the flight. In spite of these 
conditions the N.C.4 did accomplish it. 

Due to the foresight of the Navy Department, 
however, just such chances were discounted, and the 
flight was not agreed to until more than one plane 
was ready. Thus was its wisdom vindicated. 






SEP in , 


aa is-. 

SEP 32 1940 




ff"f*n 4 * 44^tA 

FEB 1 1 1970 

LD 21-100m-8,'34